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The Way Life Should Be Part of the Time

Maine The-Way-Life-Should-BeIn Maine, a getaway state for Vermont’s Upper Valley, a sign says as you cross the border, “Welcome to MAINE. The Way Life Should Be.” Which is only true if you’re vacationing there. Because if you live there, Maine is pretty much life as usual. Meaning: generous servings of aggravation, taxes, family ordeals, automotive hassles, and work. Lots of work.

Also lots of hosting because if you live in a vacation state like Vermont or Maine, your friends and fam want their vacation…at your house. And really, since when is vacation “the way life should be?” It’s supposed to be just a lot of reading, recreating, sleeping, gabbing, rampant spending, and overeating? Isn’t that what vacation’s for? But I digress.

I took a vacation recently and, due to the burdensome stressors of Modern Tymes, I overanalyzed the hell out of the vacation nearly to the point of its ruination. You know, catastrophizing and messing with time, from the moment of walking in the door thinking, “Only 5 nights left!”; then, “Ugh, down to 4 nights,”; “Oh no, 3 nights, it’s dwindling!!” Et cetera. Bringing so many provisions to save on dining-out costs that it takes an hour to load and unload the car. Not really that relaxing.

Once someone told me anything shorter than a 2-week vacation is a waste because it takes the first week to unravel. But this was 30 years ago when employers could offer free dental, eyeglasses, and ample time off. Who can take two weeks off now, when precious vacation days are used moving, moving people you know, or recovering from moving and moving people you know?

enhanced-buzz-20075-1366228772-16.buzzfeed.comWith pressing thoughts of work so debilitating it occurred to me more than once to just drive home and deal with the work issues instead of spending a bankload in paradise to worry about them without being able to solve them, I often wasn’t in paradise at all. But it was unrefundable and I wasn’t insane. So I stayed and endeavored to stifle thoughts about work, global warming, contagion, invasive species, vanishing species, and the shifting, buckling tectonic and oceanic plates that will cause much of the west coast to crumble into oatmeal before it’s hit with a debris-filled tsunami of epic proportions. I tried not think about these things. Fishing

Many Vermonters do the stay-cation in our short summer. Why go anywhere else, they ask? Because it’s not much of a vacation when you’re running into your neighbor who for the thousandth time lets his dog way too close to the family jewels. I want a change of scenery, a change of neighbors, a menu or at least a grill whose knobs I’m unfamiliar with. I want newness. Newness keeps one’s mind occupied from thoughts of global contagion.

lakeSo does sleeping on a lake in the woods. For 13 years I’ve lived in areas rather noisy by Vermont standards. When you are exploring uncharted regions, marinating in newness and hearing no noise at night, you can unravel enough for your mind to enter new territory. It can go forward in time, where you imagine the future – of you, your peeps, or your planet. We mostly went back in time, discussing our childhoods and childhood vacations. Back then vacation was all taken care of for us so we simply benefitted, sure, but it was different in other ways, too. In the 60s and 70s, average families could not only afford a house on one salary, but also a modest lake- or sea-side cabin – and time to actually go to the place.

I shan’t candycoat those trips, now comical, wherein multiple flat tires and bursting radiators caused the parents to nuke and the dog situated in the middle of the back seat (or “way back” of the Country Squire) was tortured by your brother, your indignant outcries ignored or ridiculed by bickering parents in a roasting, A/C-less, metal prison clouded by mom’s burning Kents. But the destination was ever worth the journey. Frolicking in the woods. Spinning in inner tubes with the nozzle jabbing your thigh, your cousins’ reckless antics unmonitored by drinking adults out of earshot. Skinnydipping with your aunt under the stars. Burgers and dogs. Great freedoms, great times.burger dog

We were lucky to have been young then. And you can be lucky now. By going on a real va-cation when prices plummet. Go. Ignore global threats, eat, rest, float your body in the now-warm water. Bask in nature and pleasant childhood memories. The cosmic soup demands your happiness. Do it. With love. Good day.

Provocative Autofill of the Month:

When Why does your bladder…is entered in the search box, Google autofills with:

  • Hurt
  • Have to be full for a sonogram
  • Drop
  • Leak

Send ideas to Twitter handle: @uvgvt.  … ann.aikens.7 on Facebook.

“Enough with the Beauty Already”

20 below knom.orgThis gem was uttered by a friend in disgust after the 27th day of subzero temperatures caused by the pernicious Polar Vortex. Ours was a Jack London winter, visually stunning and physically painful, something we’d rather read about than live.  But New Englanders proved their mettle once again, the nasty temps and strong winds of the deep freeze pooh-pooh’d  by skiers, ice fishermen, snow sculptors, and the various groups of demented nutters that dunk themselves in Lake Champlain, this year amidst large chunks of ice. Others enjoyed their ice indoors, watching Olympic skating men of many nations on TV tossing bespangled partners sky high and—mercifully—catching them, in their giant meat paws.


You can get cabin fever even in a mansion.

Today’s post falls on the first day of spring. Which every year is either joyful or a cruel joke, dependent upon the weather. March came in like a lion this year and will leave, with any luck, like a mewling little kitten. With modern global weirding we just don’t know. Really, we never did and, besides, April is not supposed to be a balmy month in northern New England; if it is we are probably saying Welcome! to invasive species like maple-killing insects and Hey there to greenhouse gases. But every gardener is chomping at the bit and who can blame them? As one cabin fever casualty put it a month ago, “The walls seem a little…closer…this year.”

Ice beauty of a different kind.

While the beauty was remarkable—frozen solid rivers, sparkling snow, monster icicles—northerners were cracking up and southerners suffered as well. Which you might think would please us northies but didn’t, if only because of the promise of heightened orange juice prices and fossil fumage. Once again we were jealous of—get this—New Jersey, which got way more snow early on than we did. Here, we had unimpressive snowfall until the recent blast, but what snow landed remained with endless subzero temps and endlesser talking about subzero temps.

Now the birds are chattering. They know this godforsaken winter will soon end, and by more than a calendar designation.  We have plenty of snow, with ideal temps for outdoorsiness. April has never been more anticipated. She may, of course, present fresh snow storms and protracted sugaring, an anathema to certain wives whose menfolk in their sugar shacks try to match sap boiling with beer consumption at a gallon-per-gallon pace deep into spring. Regardless, we all hope for a superb sugar season and await April’s many treasures, including National Walk to Work Day when hundreds in the Upper Valley are seen marching 30 to 40 miles on I-89 or -91. Lucky for the Upper Valley it is not called Walk To and From Work Day.

A host of April holidays follows, with Palm Sunday, Passover, Tax Day, Good Friday, Easter, Patriot’s Day, Earth Day, Secretaries’ Day (if you are from another era, which I am), Take Your Daughter To Work Day (O, treasured episode of The Office), and finally Arbor Day, to prepare us for the greatest of all the spring holidays, Green Up Vermont Day, a.k.a. Rubber Glovin’ It Day if you pick up the HazMatty biohazards I always manage to harvest on this special day in my randomly assigned location. Try it, you’ll like it! Sign up, clean up, and green up. Great good fun.

Wow, thinking of greenery just rockets our brains into thoughts of (dare I say it?) summer.  Among the collateral damage of a winter like this one: tubeside vegetation. Being held prisoner by the climate meant far more sitting around inside doing Vermonty crafts, reading and, yes, watching TV. It has taken me over a decade in the Green

Some nudity is unintentional.

Mountain State to learn that there is a heck of a lot of nudity going on here. The state is like one big nudist’s colony. People swimming, making bird houses, lounging about, doing the dishes, gardening…naked. All over the place.   Where am I going with this? Right here: tubeside vegetation is very, very, very bad for nudity. We are going to have to work extra hard this year to shed those unaesthetic pounds if we want to be polite nudists, people. Tough it out.

Is today’s vernal equinox truly what determines the first day of spring? Let’s ask modern-day oracle, Google, shall we? Hmm, s/he delivers us to the Farmers’ Almanac where we can read their take—and the fighty, oddly spelled comments below it—online. Read up and take a stance. And take heart! Spring’s a comin’. Good arguing, good nuding prep, and good (snowy) spring day.

Jack Frost Nipping at Your…

frost largerRegardless of what part he’s nipping, nibbling, or gnawing at, we’ve had just about enough of it. Enter cabin fever.

Disclaimer: The above link will not take you to a Wikipedia discourse on the history of cabin fever, a term first recorded in 1918, but to the IMDb coverage of a 2002 movie by this name about five 20-somethings in a cabin in the woods who “fall victim to a horrifying flesh-eating virus, which attracts the unwanted attention of the homicidal locals.”

Given a choice, I’d go virus. But I just don’t think I’m going to see this fine work, much as I like the poster.

Ann Aikens

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