“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” - John Banville
Welcome back, and Happy 4th of July to those who celebrate it!
If you are fortunate enough to have a long 3-day weekend, I hope you get to spend some of it with friends and family, ideally outdoors in some great weather.
If you’re new, don’t be shy, you’re among friends. Feel free to reach out by email, find me on Twitter, or leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you. Also, you can check out past editions here.
If you’re a regular reader, you may be wondering why this is edition #12 when last week’s newsletter was edition #13.
Let me explain.
Last week I was on vacation. During that vacation, I had little to no internet connection or cell reception (is it really a vacation if your cell phone still works?) I knew this was going to be the case, so I put together edition #13 a week or so before I left and scheduled it to go out this past Sunday.
I had intentions of writing edition #12 right before I left. I started it, got sidetracked, and then between tying up loose ends at work and packing for the trip, never got back to finishing it. That newsletter would have gone out on Father’s Day. I figured it wasn’t the end of the world if I skipped a week. What I didn’t think about until it was too late was that I had #13 locked and loaded to go out. Had I thought about it sooner, I would have changed its title to #12, but it is what it is.
I am a little OCD, so skipping a number entirely will throw me off forever. So, this week is #12.
I haven’t had much time to read or write the last few weeks, between preparing for the vacation and the vacation itself, but I wrote the following essay shortly after returning. It’s all I’ve got this week, so I hope you enjoy it!
When the Past Becomes the Present
I recently returned from vacation, and since doing so, I've struggled to get back into my regular routine. My vacation did a number on me in the best way possible.
As I write this, I am still experiencing the itch of the bug bites and the burn of too much time in the sun without sunscreen. It feels great and is a reminder of the week of bliss I just experienced.
It reminds me of one of my all-time favorite song lyrics,
I want to feel
All the chemicals inside
I want to feel
I want a sunburn
Just to know that I'm alive
To know I'm alive
If you don't already know the song and artist, sorry, we can't be friends.
But seriously, check it out. You'll love it. Thriving Ivory - Angels on the Moon (Official Video)
I have written in the past about my fondness for taking trips that remove me from civilization altogether. But this one was a little different.
I returned to a place I went to as a child with my entire family. I hadn't been there in decades, and I was a little nervous that time would have taken its toll on it, and the feeling of awe I used to get wouldn't return.
My family began going there in the '50s when my Mom was a small child. It is an almost magical place to many in my family, and I have wonderful images of it burned into my head. But many of those images are from thirty years ago or more. And often, our memories can make good things better as time passes.
Adding to the nervousness was the fact that it wasn't just my wife, daughter, and myself going. Other family members made the trip, some of who had never been there and were not so accustomed to being detached from civilization.
Would they get bored? Wish they hadn't come? Completely lose their minds?
The only thing keeping the nervousness at bay was my excitement. For years I have thought of returning. I have pictured the wonderful summers there and how simple things were; all the fun that was had without any of today's technology or gadgets or constant connectedness. The only ones you were connected with when I was a kid were those who had joined you on the trip. There were no telephones, electricity, or even indoor plumbing.
I often wondered what it would be like to take my daughter there and watch a child of this modern age, who has never known life without an Ipad, experience something that I enjoyed so much as a child and live the life I lived so long ago.
I knew it wouldn't be exactly the same. New owners had upgraded the amenities since my last visit, which was one of my concerns. Would the feeling of adventure be gone with the new changes?
I hoped for the best but kept my expectations in check.
When we arrived, there was this comforting sense of coming home, despite some things that were clearly new and different. Our cabin had electricity and indoor plumbing, unlike when I was a kid, and we bathed in the lake and carried flashlights to the outhouse at night. And many of the old cabins were replaced with newer, more modern versions.
But, other than that, it seemed as though time had almost stood still. The views from the deck of our cabin were just as I remembered them, the water was still crystal clear, and the calm and quietness still pulled you in. I was instantly swept back to a much simpler time, a time that was so much more enjoyable than the majority of my days spent sitting in an office staring at a computer.
It felt amazing not to feel guilty that I wasn't checking my work email. I couldn't, even if I wanted to.
It was freeing not to feel like I needed to get on Twitter and tweet, retweet, or like, just so the algorithm wouldn't forget me.
For a week, I spent zero minutes on my laptop and almost no time on my phone (other than taking pictures.) And it felt so good. And more importantly, it felt natural.
I spent the week kayaking, swimming, playing checkers with my Grandpa, and catching frogs and snakes with my daughter.
I felt like a kid again. And it felt fucking amazing.
For a week, I watched as my daughter experienced the same things in the same place I did as a child. And she enjoyed every single minute of it. She couldn't get enough.
She wasn't on a tablet or screen of any kind for a week, and she never mentioned it once. I don't think it ever even occurred to her. She was too busy enjoying herself, and by the end of each night, she was physically exhausted. I have to think that it was the healthiest week of living she has ever had. And this is a child who is accustomed to camping and spending time outdoors.
Everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves as well. Maybe my worries were overblown. When you disconnect people, there is almost a sense of relief, whether they recognize it or not. A few may have been stressed that first day or had that feeling of "what am I missing." But by the end of the week, everyone was relaxed, and there seemed to be nothing missing from their lives.
For me, it felt like pure bliss, a week-long journey to the past where everything felt the same, just slightly different. No longer the child, I was the Dad watching my daughter make unforgettable memories while enjoying an incredibly pure and simple life.
I have already made plans to go back next year. I am curious if the feeling will remain or be as strong. Was this a fluke? Some emotional reaction to returning to someplace with so many wonderful memories? Or is it magic that can be captured again and again?
As I said at the beginning, it's been a struggle for me to get back to real life this week. As I sit here in my office, the images from last week dance through my head. They are vivid. So vivid, I don’t need to look at the dozens of pictures on my phone. The images of my daughter are there alongside the images of me as a kid from decades ago. And they begin to blur together. Is it my daughter or myself as a young child I see in them? It can be hard to tell; they are so similar. For one week, we lived the same life, thirty years apart.
That’s all for now.
I hope you all have a great week!
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Dammit, Randy. This was so moving. Made me shed a tear.
“For one week, we lived the same life, thirty years apart. “ is such a beautiful line.
I think pulling a Thoreau and going away to a cabin for a bit is actually the right move.