The most disturbing part of any vacation is the certainty and speed with which it begins to fade. From the time the former destination becomes so distant as to be framed nicely in a rear view mirror or the window of a plane, the sights, sounds, flavors, and even the mood of the excursion begins to slowly pale until weeks, months, or certainly years later, all that remains are a few mental snapshots to go along with whatever ones were captured through a lens.
The first time I remember being truly saddened by the fading process of travel was at the end of an especially delightful trip to San Diego ten years ago. As the bay dissolved into a single reflective glint in the view at take off, I remember being struck by the thought that, from there on, the trip was destined only to go ever further away. Sure, I had memories, but the only ones of those I could truly count on were those safely recorded in the little bound book in which I’d been furtively storing them.
I didn’t keep a journal on my recent trip to Florida and The Bahamas, and that kind of scares me. It wasn’t an intentional decision—a fresh journal whiled away the entire trip in my carry on —it just never happened. Typically, in the event that actually living a journey precludes the recording of it, I’ll spend the return trip logging the memories as they waft, vapor-like, from my mind. But this time, I didn’t despite the fact that I had to go back to work the morning after our return, an event I knew would have a Clorox-like effect on the vivid pattern of the beach milieu in which I’d been so recently enveloped.
I didn’t, even though not three weeks ago, I found a journal from a 2003 trip to Seattle in which I read that my then-twelve year old daughter, though fascinated by the trolley bus outfitted with two steering wheels for swift changes in direction, expressed great concern that sitting in the seat opposite mine could result in us winding up at opposing destinations and I laughed myself senseless. I never would have remembered that, but I have that memory now because I preserved it in print—the only reliable anti-fading agent of which I’m aware.
And yet, by ten AM Monday morning, I was elbow deep in grout, surrounded by kindergartners wielding miniature mosaic tiles and hadn’t had a single thought about blue skies, ocean waters, or palm trees in hours. And so the week went, each day taking me further from the sun and surf until it seemed the trip lived on only in my dreams, during which I remained fully convinced that I was moving across the ocean, which isn’t that far of a stretch in a full-motion water bed.
By now, I’ve almost been back for as long as I was gone, and I am determined to write something in that journal today before time can further act on my memory. Because the only reliable thing I know about time is that it is a thief, but at least a kind one. Already, the intervening days have polished the jagged edges from some of the rougher recollections of the trip, like the dismal hours of paper work and long lines required to board the cruise ship, or the disappointment of discovering that the all-inclusive package we paid for somehow did not extend to meals at the resort on Grand Bahama Island. Pshh…barely worth noting from this vantage point, especially when there is so much I do want to remember, that I’m struggling to impress on my mind so it isn’t lost.
Many of these are little things, most matter only to me. Some are as simple as little facts I learned about the environment on an eco-tour of the Space Coast waterways immediately after we saw the Shuttle Discovery off on its mission. (Who knew that the root systems of mangrove trees provide safe harbor for 80% of seafood species, or that dolphins remain in motion every moment of their 30 years of life? I didn't.)Other events are just moments—moments that were funny, or peaceful, or felt adventuresome. All of them, I want to remember.
I want to remember the irony of passing up a cup of coffee at the airport in hopes of getting some good brew upon landing in Florida and my husband saying, in an off-hand sort of way, “I don’t think your opportunities are what you think they are,” and the following string of inexplicable events that left me virtually joe-less for the next 36 hours. Things like thinking I was so smart, buying a whole bag of coffee to brew at the hotel, but not purchasing any accompanying filters. Things like forgoing all but a few ounces of coffee when we awoke for the space shuttle launch in the in the middle of the night for fear that I’d be caught without facilities, and then somehow not finding a coffee shop until the next afternoon. And foolishly passing it up because I felt hot, and already settled for coffee ice cream, and then not finding another one until nearly bedtime. And waking up the next morning and saying things would be different and immediately tearing into the only envelope of prepackaged coffee in the hotel and severing the ironically named commodity asunder in my eagerness.
I want to remember the thrill of getting up at 2:00—two o’clock!- AM to see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery. Not only was seeing the shuttle a lifetime first, seeing that particular hour at the outset of a day as opposed to the flip side was a new experience as well. In the aftermath of a couple of recent, hazy stupors triggered by early risings associated with an ill-timed dental appointment and volunteerism at a homeless shelter, I was skeptical about `my prospects for long term alertness, particularly in light of the aforementioned caffeine shortage. Which makes it all the more satisfying to remember being up 17 hours later, thanks to the best nap I probably ever had and waking up with less than 24 hours of amazing memories behind me and nearly a week’s worth ahead.
I want to remember driving down the coast on Florida’s A1A the next day, talking with my husband about things on which we agree—the wonderful-ness of our surroundings, and various thoughts about life and kids—as well as things about which we don’t always agree, such as politics.
I want to remember watching the sunset off the aft end of the cruise ship, and reclining in a big cozy lounge chair with my husband as the stars emerged and the deck cleared and we were somehow alone in a floating city with a population of 1200 people.
I want to remember that even though the snorkeling excursion we splurged on turned into a couple hours on rough seas on and off a catamaran, that even though death seemed a viable options, I mastered both my gag reflex and my seasickness and saw some amazing fish in their coral reef digs.
I never want to forget that I came reasonably close to fulfilling a Life List dream when Salvador kissed me.
I don’t want to forget escaping the expensive tourist area in the aftermath of the not-very-inclusive meal plan scandal and finding a humble grocery store where I bought a $2.00 pineapple and begged a deli worker to slice it for me.
Even though I don’t have a single photo of the place, I don’t want to forget the little Irish restaurant we discovered next to the grocery store, and the good people we met.
A despite the fact that I probably took too many pictures of the place, I’m afraid I won’t remember enough about the awesome suite we stayed in on our last vacation night, back in Florida. Masterfully designed and artfully decorated, it would make an ideal model for guest accommodations in the house we hope to build.
The truth is that I’ll probably forget things I’d like to remember, and recall random things I’d expect to forget. Life is like that. And journal or no, vacations have their own way of Living Large in a sort of Travel Immortality. And maybe our memories of them evolve into just what they should be, regardless of whatever we may do—or not—to preserve them.
In Other News:
The skin cancer scare is on hold. Dr. M is on vacation, and I can't trust a substitute with cancer of any kind. This gives me a month to test out a skin cancer potion from the herbalist that I've kept on hand for just this sort of circumstance. With any luck, I can dissolve away all the sketchy spots before Dr. M is back in the office.
I appreciated reading the comments from faithful readers while I was away. I will be getting caught up on blog reading and commenting over the coming week. Can't wait to see what everyone has been up to!