Saturday, August 29, 2009

Vacation—Recharging Batteries

Colorado mountain pines whisper my name and beckon me to the quiet hush of a cool mountain morning. I always referred to vacation as a time to recharge my batteries, but it doesn’t have quite the same meaning it used to have.

I fell in love with the mountains on our first camping trip in 1983. To humor Jim, I agreed to camp at the Moraine Park campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park. Everyone expected us to be home after a few days because, to put it mildly, I never considered camping to be a relaxing experience. Sleeping on a hard surface in extreme Missouri heat, while slapping mosquitoes, was not my idea of fun.

Jim was an accomplished camper from a lifetime of outdoors adventures. He loved the Colorado mountains and each year we set aside a week to get away from everyday stress and recharge our spiritual batteries.

Jim spoiled me on our vacations. On cool Colorado mornings, he would rise before the sun peeked over the mountains, build a campfire, and brew coffee. Jim would open the van door, and hand me a cup of coffee while I huddled under the heavy quilts in bed.

“Breakfast is almost ready, Princess,” Jim would say. The scent of bacon frying on the Coleman camp stove promised a tasty, hearty meal. “Get up sleepy, head, we are in the mountains!” Joy would shine on Jim’s face as we planned the day—an aerial tramway ride, hiking, and an early evening drive through the park to watch deer and elk.

In retrospect, I can measure the progression of Jim’s dementia by our trips to Colorado. By 1997, camping was beyond Jim’s capabilities and although we still drove to our beloved mountains, we stayed in a hotel. Then, the trips ended as Jim became more confused and eventually entered long-term care.

After Jim’s death in 2005, I made a bittersweet return to the mountains. Long’s Peak looked the same, but I noticed other changes. We used to walk around the Beaver Pond to watch ducks and fish in the clear water below. Now, a small trickle moves past a truncated ramp near the reclaimed meadow. A drive up the Big Thompson doesn’t seem as great without browsing the Glen Comfort store filled with exquisite Native American pottery and storytellers.

Now, instead of camping at Moraine Park, I find a hotel with high speed Internet. The batteries I recharge are in my Dell netbook, camera, and cell phone. Instead of getting away from it all, I take it all with me.

Maybe it’s my age, but I find some of the changes to be good. I can idealize past vacations through selective memory, but a lot is to be said for having a private bathroom, satellite TV, air conditioning or heat as needed and a comfortable bed. The cell phone and Internet keep me from getting behind on everything happening back home. Now, I can take hundreds of pictures on my camera and never have to buy a roll of film.

Yes, many things have changed, but vacation shouldn’t be an attempt to recapture the past. It should be a time for new experiences, to breathe the fresh air of today and appreciate the beauty of now. When I look at the majestic view from Trail Ridge Road or gaze at the reflection of the mountains in Bear Lake, I feel a small charge of electric current flow through my spiritual self. Can that be my batteries recharging?
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