Tag: travel

The shape of things to become

Not pictured: iPhone picture.

This morning I put my iPhone in the dresser drawer. I’m going to try to do without it for a day, and if that works, two days. It feels ridiculous to be in a place where I don’t need to be connected, and yet I can’t stop checking weather and email and Facebook and rock tumbler reviews. I did want to call Liz today. Maybe I can take it out just once, to use only as a phone, if I put it back right after.

It will never stop, the sand shifting from year to year, sometimes a wider beach or a narrower one, sometimes the shipwreck visible and sometimes not. It will never stop, but we will. We’ll get too old to climb Baldy, then too old to get to the big beach, then finally too old to come at all. Or perhaps before any of that, some of us will just tire of the place and its preciousness or its sameness or whatever we choose to accuse it of, while it goes on just the same, black squirrels scurrying through pine forests, dune grass looking at the water, stones polishing themselves in the waves.

Me and David Hasslehoff

Objects in mind are farther than they appear.

I can handle hard work. I can handle tough choices. But when it’s hassle-y, when it comes to fitting two bikes in the car, taking them out and putting them in again in a slightly different way, I want to rip my scalp off. I resent the time it takes to even complain about it.

And the locks. The U-locks with the cables attached, and the keys, and Dave suggesting that I get both the front and rear wheels into the cable, which I know, I know, but the cable doesn’t stretch. On a folding bike, the smallness of the wheels makes their rims too far apart so just forget it, no one would steal a bike here anyway, would they?

“No. No one would steal a bike here, but if just one person did, it would suck to lose a new bike, and it would really suck to learn that someone would steal a bike here.” So by the time we unlock the bikes from the porch and get them and our helmets and our various possible biking clothes (none of which I learn later are good for biking) and grocery bags and other tools into the car after breakfast, I am fuming. We’re only heading into town to get apples and cocktail fixings, but the Betsie trail goes right through town and we might feel like riding, so why not bring the bikes? It sounds so carefree but the reality is, you take one of my bike lock keys and I’ll take one of yours but I don’t have a little key ring, should we add that to the grocery list, and do we need a patch kit or should we buy extra inner tubes somewhere, and what do we need to replace inner tubes, are there special tools we should buy, and what if our air pump doesn’t work?

“I don’t know why I hate this so much,” I say when we are finally after a million years on the road to town.

Instead of pointing out that he did all of the “this,” from unlocking the bikes on the porch to loading them and everything else in the car, Dave says something much more provoking. “Because you’re just like your mom.”

That is an unacceptable reason. My mom would never put her bike in the car and take it to town. My mom would never submit to wearing a helmet or buying an expensive and complicated lock. “I’m not going through all that,” she’d say. “If God wants me to crack my head, so be it.” I remember her going on bike rides with my dad and Auntie Marie and Uncle Vince and Norma and Bill. Was biking safer then? They didn’t go on bike paths. They rode down busy streets, a leisurely parade of six, into north Oak Park and River Forest.

I’m just like my mom is not acceptable, though it might be true. I don’t want to commit to an activity that might be too involved, might take too much time and effort, might keep me from the beach, which is how I define vacation here. Going into town is a guilty consumer pleasure that keeps me from the real magic of this place, which is the stunning miles of beach and bluff and blue, blue water.

Maybe commitment was what Mom hated too. Maybe it’s why she wouldn’t go to Europe when Dad asked or join a bowling league or take an exercise class. Okay. I commit to the ride.

We park near the library and take out our bikes and get all situated and pack the basket, which was purchased for my bike but which Dave loads onto his without a complaint (I don’t want the extra weight). It ends up being a full day, riding this sweet trail that goes past the tiny town of Elberta and past occasional houses and even past the lake sometimes, and over long wooden bridges over marshes and rivers, shaded by trees most of the way. I think it’s about four or five miles.

When we get to the next town, Beulah, we buy padded shorts and inner tubes. An old man with two big bags of cans sits at the railroad station, which has been converted to a very nice set of rest rooms and an area for picnic tables. He says what a nice day it is and we agree. The guy at the bike shop gives us a full demonstration of how to replace an inner tube and it’s suddenly very interesting. We wander through town a little and get ice cream cones, and I feel sorry for Dave that they didn’t have any padded shorts for him. When we stop at the railway station to fill up our water bottles, the old man is gone. We pass him later, limping along the road near the bike path, without his bags.

The ride back is even better than the ride out. When we get to Frankfort, Dave checks the trail map and learns it was almost 10 miles each way, not five. I am so glad I didn’t know this beforehand, because although I want to work on this commitment thing there’s no way I would have committed to a 19-mile bike ride when I could have been at the beach, which I ended up not missing at all.

The comforts of not being home

rubber ducky
Have arrived safely. No idea what that means.

Today on our way up the lake coast, we ran into Frank and Fern at Ray’s drive in. They were sitting at a picnic table outside. They said we’d just missed Ruby and Roy, who’d already gone on. As we sat and ate our perch sandwiches (best in town), they said most years they run into Ogilvy and Olivia here. We usually leave Chicago so late we just hope to make Brigadoon by dinnertime, but it’s worth it, leaving early to make Ray’s by lunch. Later we learned that the O’s pulled into Ray’s about ten minutes after we left.

Seeing Frank and Fern made me feel like I’d stepped into Brigadoon early, and I felt a rush of comfort. Out of the chaos of infinite places, infinite choices, infinite points in time and people on earth, a few people we know converge spontaneously at the same place for lunch. Maybe not so spontaneous, since we’re all headed for the same place another three hours up the road, but still.

It’s also comforting not having anyone here, or expecting anyone. I don’t have to make sure Brigadoon is a good experience for someone else. Last night the soup was lukewarm and I thought, if Buck and Xeena were here I’d be mortified, but since it was just us, I sipped my soup as fast as I could, to get the last of its delicious warmth. Dave thought the Bleu cheese dressing tasted like Ranch but I thought it was the same, garlicky and superb.

After dinner I sat on the inn steps with Alice Fay and talked awhile, about families and how you keep learning that you know nothing about the stuff you thought you’d gotten so wise about. The wind was up though not crazy, and even the little lake was moving. Blue is still here. Thirteen years old and he came creaking his way around from the kitchen, where he’d just gotten a piece of flank steak from our drinks guy. He came over and got petted and praised by all of us for still being alive, then he went and sniffed around in some ground cover and laid down.

We headed back to our cottages. As we unpacked, Dave found the rubber ducky from our bathroom at home, tucked in the pocket of one of his shirts. A goodbye gift from Jakob, who’s staying at the house while we’re gone. I took a picture and emailed it to him. No wireless here, but my phone works. A few years ago, you couldn’t get cell reception in Brigadoon, but now I’m on 3G most of the time. I must be changing, because I find that comforting, too.



Please enter through anywhere

store sign
Pathways in town were more complex.

When I made reservations and the guy said they had a labyrinth, I imagined some kind of New Age corn maze. But when we walked up from the B&B, there were no walls. Just a ballroom-sized expanse of stones in concentric circles, leading you through one half roundabout to the center, where a post displayed some Chinese or Japanese characters that probably said something significant, then through the other half and out.

The stones were bordered only by low grasses, so there was no suspense about which was the right path or the right turn. There was just one way through, or you could step right across the circle and ignore the path altogether. When I saw it, in the middle of the broad plateau, I thought, What’s the point if there’s no mystery?

But I walked in. My sandaled feet tramped first along the fine gravel of the outer pathways, then more quietly on the smooth stones of the inner pathways. It was curiously satisfying to feel that my feet were filling each part of the circle in an orderly though indirect way. Sometimes I’d feel like I was moving away from the center, yet the design always led, ultimately, closer in. When I got to the center, I looked at the post and wondered what the characters meant, but it was nice not to know.

Dave hadn’t entered when I did. He stood near some benches on the edge of the plateau. As I slowly rounded my way out, I almost shouted over a joke, or something to tell him it was no big deal, he could enter while I was in there, but something stopped me. I didn’t want to speak across the nonexistent labyrinth walls. I proceeded out through an exit which was exactly across from the entrance, and walked over to the benches. They were flanked by two spindly trees, maybe six feet tall, anchored to the ground with wires that I guess were meant to direct their growth. Everywhere in this place there were things built or planted with an eye toward the future. Five or twenty years from now, this will be a shady refuge from the merciless Kansas sun.

I watched Dave enter the labyrinth through the exit and wondered if that was right. Later I learned that it’s all about left and right, so I guess entrance and exit are relative. Madeline, who built the labyrinth with her husband Ken, from a design some MIT professor created, said it’s all about the three R’s — remember release, receive? Something like that. So when you enter, you walk first through the left side of the labyrinth, which somehow corresponds to your left brain, and think about what it is you want to get rid of. Then at the center I think you release it. Then you walk through the right side and maybe receive what you need to receive? But at the time, I hadn’t learned that yet. All I knew was that it felt really good to walk through it, though I didn’t know why, and when it was over I really wanted to walk through again, but it didn’t seem right to while Dave was in there.

And now that we’re home, past the stress of the grandmother visits and the challenging conversations about her offspring and the return flight on the tiny plane, I have one reason to want to go back to Kansas.