Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The long version

I am in the unfortunate habit of rushing everything. On the chances I get to post here, I'm always giving the quick version just to get something down, just to get something done. But I regret that rush-rush-rush all the time, and think about how much I enjoy Natalie's posts with her careful storytelling and generous sharing of pictures. So with Natalie as my guide and model (which is true in so many ways!), I undertake telling you a long story, with many photos.

My beloved brother Tony and his wife Carol (also beloved), generously spent their summer vacation week here with us. It's not cheap to fly from southern Missouri to Boston, and they don't get a lot of vacation time. In a year where the importance of family is in such high relief, it made more difference than I can say to have them here.

Tony's first brilliant idea of the trip was to rent kayaks on a local pond. Do you ever feel totally delighted and chagrined to find out after years and years that there are wonderful things to do in your own backyard that you don't discover until someone comes to visit?

With the five of us, we rented two doubles and one single, and took turns in each boat. Everyone particularly loved the single -- it was the highest quality boat, for one thing, and being able to just propel yourself around was exhilarating.
Here are Tony and Dean in their twin hats, getting the feel of the boat.

Ken and Dean, with Ken (in my opinion) doing his best officer-of-the-law imitation.
Now you can see why kayaks have been added to our wish list, even though it will mean having to clear out the garage to make space to store them.

Ken turned 51 during the week and his birthday was the only day he could take off from work, unfortunately. His heart's desire was mini golf, and

homemade chocolate cupcakes. Easy wishes to fulfill.

The rest of us spent a day tooling around Boston, walking the waterfront

and stopping for ice creams at the Public Gardens. Tony and Carol, although both native Chicagoans like me, are not city people. They enjoyed the bits of sightseeing but preferred to get away from the throngs whenever possible. Again, being local, I forget the impact of being able to point to a church and comment off-handedly that Benjamin Franklin was baptized there.

We took off mid-week on a road trip up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Carol loves waterfalls, and even in the dog days of a hot summer there was still plenty of big water running up there. Our first stop was Flume Gorge at Franconia Notch State Park, where the water was big but so were the crowds.

Worth it, though, for the breathtaking walk up through the gorge, cooled by the running water and deep shade.

No, this is NOT Mount Washington (on day two, when we *should* have been able to see it, it was hiding behind the skirts of a morning fog), but can you see the profile of Washington in the mountain top on the left?

Dean was our expert guide here; last month was his hiking trip up to the Lonesome Lake hut. He was the one who guided us in the big choice of coming up here in the first place and we would have bought him a beer for the good tip (but got him a box of maple sugar candy instead).

A geology and animal behavior lesson. While they also managed to log an inordinate number of hours on the Wii together, Tony and Dean shared their love of the outdoors, of hiking, of animals and nature. The balance of Dean's local knowledge against Tony's vast years of experience (but all in the Midwest) gave them so many opportunities to compare notes and deepen their close relationship. It's hard having family so far away -- we only see them every few years -- but turned out to be pretty easy to catch up on lost time.

We spent some time on the Appalacian Trail,

and while we're very used to the word "trail" being applied to places that look like this, Tony and Carol were fairly shocked -- no clear walkway to be seen so it takes the skill of watching carefully for trail markers to avoid getting lost in the woods.

And also the good sense to take them at their word and turn around at the appropriate points.

No sense of loss, though, in turning back sometimes, given how much is accessible with moderate effort.
It would have been nice to have a whole week up here, so that there was never a need to hurry anyone away from their explorations and thoughts; maybe next summer?

I managed to say only a few, well-timed "be careful's" and to let Dean explore, crossing back and forth across running water.

And fortunately we never needed the spare pair of dry shoes (or dry clothing) from the car. Dean is gazing up at the next stretch of the trail; we didn't continue that loop because we didn't have the time and the terrain was beyond what Tony could handle given that he just had knee replacement surgery 8 months ago.

But again, it didn't feel that we were missing out in any way, and each trek we managed to time so that we had the falls to ourselves -- meeting others only on our way back out.

Including the kind of fellow hikers who are happy to take your picture for you!

The evening included pizza for dinner and a pool lesson as well (more good ideas on Tony's part),

with amazing local ice cream for dessert.
Are you thinking what I was thinking? I couldn't resist the temptation to check it out, just to be sure. I could imagine some horse lovers in New Hampshire deciding against the glue factory when the time came, but it turned out to be the Wallace C. Horse memorial cemetery instead.

And like trying to hold the cold mountain water in your hands the week slipped away.

I read an article recently about the superiority of experiences over "stuff," when you have the opportunities to make that choice. And my piece is that the experiences can be very local, no matter where you are; I imagine there could be some nearby gems that you've yet to discover. The whole staycation thing. Count me in, and come visit me any time you'd like for your own chance at some of these wonders.


Natalie said...

Your kind words about my posts made me happy.
And this post... wow! I was with you every step of the way. Thank you for bringing us along. Look how Dean has grown! Height and maturity both evident and dear... so that he is the same boy, but with more to admire!
I love the group picture, and the last, and so many others. Beautiful places, people, and memories.
And finally, thank you for the invitation... some day, yes. I want to share those wonders.

M. said...

Lovely! :-)

I am sorry that I am such a sporadic visitor!
Like you, I left work to bring up my children (four of them) and now I am back in school (yippee!), struggling to meet all the deadlines and term papers and especially learning to say no to my family (kids, mom is studying and she needs your help to succeed!). I am enjoying it, very much so.