On the Road

What is your dream vacation? I’m headed out the door on mine, and it is surprising how few of these I have taken. I’m talking about going somewhere I’ve never been; somewhere far enough off well-traveled roads that no one I know has ever been there. Except for my travel companion, I won’t know a soul. I have no plans for what to do when I get there, and no real expectations for how this will turn out. There is enough time, a whole week, for exploring and relaxing and seeing what will happen.

The truth is that I love out of the way places. I keep tucking them into my books, from the town of Flores on Lake Peten Itza in Guatemala in z2 to the to northeast corner of Greenland in d4. You can’t get too remote for my tastes.

charles-kuraltOn the other hand, my traveling companion, who is usually referred to as my husband, is noticeably agitated about this dive into the uncharted, combined with a notable lack of advanced reconnaissance.  I agree that it adds potential for problems, and I try to think of why such an adventure calls to me in a way that sight seeing and visiting loved ones and going and laying on a beach somewhere simply does not.

And I remember Charles Kuralt.

When I was a kid, we watched the evening news with Walter Cronkite. On a good night, the broadcast would include a segment called “On the Road” where this older, balding guy would wander into some town in the middle of nowhere and, always, discover a fascinating story to tell. I loved him, loved his travels and loved his stories. One could say I’ve spent much of my life trying to become Charles Kuralt, and I don’t know why. I even seem to have moved to his home state of North Carolina.

What was the charm? Maybe it was finding something you could not predict. Perhaps it had to do with taking a step back from busy life, and enjoying, for example, the simple pleasure of watching 8000 dominoes fall over.  See for yourself in this video from 1983.

Will I make discoveries like this on my vacation into the unadvertised, non-simulated nooks into which I go? Oh, I hope so. I really hope so.

Nature calls it even

wavesI’ve been thinking recently about the concept of a tie, or draw in a contest. (See my post about ties on my x0 blog here.) I’m on vacation, relaxing. I am also realizing that I let myself relax all too seldom. There’s work, a necessary evil. Family. Relationships. Joyful but not effortless. Writing. Blogging. Both my passions but not effortless either. And then there’s that damn kitchen counter that always needs a wipe down.

This week I am at the beach, on a screen porch that overlooks the ocean, and captures the sea breeze and the sounds of waves. I think maybe I should get off the porch and do something and then I think, why? This is my vacation.  So I sit here and ponder the tides. It is low tide now, so the sea has receded and paused. It rests in equilibrium, a perfect tie between the pull of water as it follows the tug of the moon and the sloshing back of the water as the moon looses its grip.

moonThere is a full moon tonight, another wonderful resting point of nature that will be shown in all its spectacular glory, sparkling off the waves. For two weeks the moon has waxed, growing ever larger. Tonight it will pause, caught between expansion and contraction. Tomorrow the forces of waning will begin to win, for two weeks or so at any rate.  Then a dark moonless night filled with the wonder of a million stars will accentuate another temporary draw in this battle of the waxing and the waning moon.

Although I call work a necessary evil, the truth is that my profession in geophysics is born of a deep fascination with the earth and sky and physical forces that shape the universe around us. It shows up in my novels, where I have gotten to describe earthquakes, tsunami, and storms at sea.  In z2 I made the path of the sun overhead part of my plot. That is a place where nature reaches a different kind equilibrium. Here the night grows longer and darker, until the point of greatest darkness, when like the tides or the moon, things pause.  But this pause, called the solstice, is not the “tie” but merely the turning point. Days will grow longer now until for one single moment the powers of light and darkness are equal. We call it the spring equinox, and it is the moment when nature grants a tied score. Then the day grows still longer, and that brings us to now.  Late May, with the summer solstice approaching. Me sitting on a porch pondering nature and equilibrium and thinking that at the very least I ought to go inside the wipe down the kitchen counter, left in quite a mess after the lunch that faded into the nap that faded into these seaside thoughts.

I get as far as opening the door into the house when I see that my son has not only wiped down the counter, he’s loaded and run the dishwasher as well. My my. All things have cycles don’t they, and it appears that we have reached some sort of equilibrium point regarding kitchen clean-up. I love it when nature allows for balance. I smile my appreciation, and head back to the hammock for a second nap.

hammock2

For a few later thoughts on the merits of a close game please visit my y1 blog here.