Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'll Take the Whole Cookie

“The good parts are good,” my son said, nibbling his way around a mostly scorched peanut butter cookie. A failed campfire experiment, the cookies—or at least my son’s response to them—spoke metaphoric volumes about a long-anticipated vacation punctuated by sustained stretches of torrential rain.

Any time suitcases emerge from closets and sleeping bags pile beside doors, it is the lot of the vacation-bound traveler to be swept into an excited frenzy fueled by a heaping dose of optimism and a shot of high hopes. We recall breathtaking views from lofty summits, food from far-flung places, and the crackle of campfires that will forever burn inside our hearts.

And although we may fondly recall any number of days passed on open roads, back woods trails, and sandy beaches, there are certain trips that live large in our memories for a lifetime. Perhaps for you, it was the week the whole family went to Disney, or maybe it was that deep woods scouting adventure when you first knew you could conquer anything as long as you had the pack at your side and compass in your hand. Personally, I’m never more than a blink away from a little bed and breakfast in San Diego. And that month on the road, traveling cross country with my family? There’s not a single moment that I wouldn’t live a thousand times over.

These storied excursions develop epic reputations that tend to loom large over future travel plans. We want every trip to live up to the fabled glory, and the expectations don’t leave much margin for error. Sure, we expect complications—after all, what trip would be complete without a blown tire or a mishap or two with a map? But I must admit that none of the scenarios I imagined befalling our trip to Maine included sustained rains and accompanying fog which reduced days’ worth of trip pics into so many grey rectangles.

My sister blames herself for the soggy turn in our fortunes. After a successful first day in the wilderness of Acadia National Park, she claims that lightening and thunder punctuated her declaration of utter happiness as her head hit her pillow that night. My thought is that if you’ve experienced unmarred happiness long enough for it to become notable, then you are more fortunate than most.

The truth is that the duration of pure happiness can only be measured in moments. Perfect days are an illusion—a smoke and mirrors bit of revisionist history which softens the edges of our mental pictures into Impressionistic snapshots of the Best Moments. This is a feature of the human brain for which I’m very thankful—the airbrush treatment the mind gives to the sharp and jagged angles, leaving us with a nicely framed interpretation of What Was Good.

Our ability to remember life in terms of moments should not be underestimated. After all, fog, rain and mud are the ingredients of daily life. How often do you wake up to a day of unlimited visibility, warm, fuzzy feelings and sure footing? If your life is anything like mine, I suspect those carefree conditions are the exception to your daily forecast. And a place as far north as Maine exemplifies the reality behind the metaphor.

Maine has a reputation built solely on moments. Flawless days certainly number below 100 a year, and a large percentage of residents depend on the temperate conditions of a four-month window to earn their annual income. The vast majority of Maine days are cold, dreary affairs—but the moments in between are so sweet, the state boasts the moniker “Vacation Land” on its license plates and literature.

Our trip was capped on either end by moments that proved worthy of the title. The blueberries were ripe...

...and the flowers were lush and plentiful.

We slept under stars numbering in the hundreds of thousands on two occasions, and our last night was spent in a beachside cabin so inviting, there is a movement among our family to spend our entire vacation there next year. The “good parts” were very, very good.And the other parts weren’t so bad either. They gave me the chance to notice the beauty in rain,

understand that ships can stay afloat in less-than-perfect conditions,

and to acknowledge that these are the moments that will sustain me through all the patchy weather I’ll encounter before I hit the road again.


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crowbarred said...

Maine has to be good .... Hawkeye comes from there ... rrs signed ~ awesome writing


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