A typical back to school assignment, when I was a kid, was to write about our summer vacations. I never cared for the topic. I had nothing much to write about, or so I thought. At the time, I did not realize that the spirit of a vacation is sometimes more important that its activities.
I spent the summers of my childhood at home doing ordinary things, like eating sandwiches on the porch while sipping Kool-Aid, and playing outside until the streetlights came on. The most exciting thing that happened was the arrival of the ice cream truck in the neighbourhood. Occasionally, my family went huckleberry picking or took off for the day to picnic near a lake or stream.
We were masters at the staycation, long before the concept became trendy.
By chance, I took a staycation this summer. It came upon me in the form of a seventeen-year-old relative who was studying English at a nearby college. She had weekends free. We spent them swimming in lakes and hot springs, wandering local markets, picnicking in parks, visiting local heritage sites and canoeing at a wildlife sanctuary. My visitor’s enthusiasm for the things that I considered ordinary and ho-hum renewed my appreciation for familiar places and landscapes.
My staycation had the added benefit of deepening my understanding of hospitality and building a friendship. Initially, in my heart, I was a reluctant tour guide. As I extended myself, I became more generous in spirit. Hospitality, I discovered, not only includes acts of generosity that everyone can see, like inviting someone to dinner or showing them the sights. It is also an attitude of the heart that enables us to joyfully meet the needs and receive the gifts of the other person.
A few weeks after the departure of our visitor, my family headed off for two-weeks at a nearby lake.
The first week was glorious with sunny, blue skies, but then the wind shifted and the smoke from a forest fire settled in. Poor air quality forced us to spend the bulk of that week indoors. The enforced family togetherness could have resulted in frayed tempers. But, like my unplanned staycation, it turned out to be a gift.
The smoke seemed to muffle sound and slow time. It literally shrunk the horizon before us, limiting our view to a few feet beyond the edge of the dock. We began to enjoy the stillness that contrasted with our modus operandi of getting things done. The shrunken visual horizon expanded the interior horizon of the heart. It fanned a spirit of comity among us as we waited optimistically for a benevolent wind (that never came) to clear the skies.
This summer, I found gifts in unexpected circumstances. A staycation renewed my appreciation for the familiar and nurtured a more generous heart. A hazy horizon reminded me that there is value in stillness and a beauty in doing nothing.
Trail, BC resident Louise McEwan is a freelance religion writer with degrees in English and Theology. She has a background in education and faith formation. Her blog is faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org