The first couple of weeks after I got back from Monhegan Island, ME were a little rough. I know, I know, poor me, I can't afford to be on vacation on an island every day of my life. Honestly though, what I missed at least as much as the gorgeous setting was an excuse to be offline for hours and hours at a time. I spend a tremendous amount of time on the computer. Much of this has to do with the nature of my work-- even pre-Internet I was working a keyboard many hours of most days. But some of it has to do with the hypnotic pull of click-a-link-click-a-link-click-a-link, send/receive-send/receive-send/receive.
I have a hunch that all of us land on the planet with latent OCD tendencies and that more than a few of us have had these tendencies bust out at the virtual seams thanks to so many opportunities for instant "gratification." Even if every new onslaught in the inbox causes us to sigh and curse the Sysiphean nature of the email beast, there still is some subconscious satisfaction in knowing that we haven't been forgotten, that we're connected to the world outside, even if the representation of connection comes in the form of piles of spam beseeching help from dethroned princes asking for your kind attention and small donation and/or another facebook notification that you're invited to an event you have no interest in attending.
My own OCD stuff, far from being latent, is quite pronounced and, for what it's worth, seems to have gotten much "louder" ever since I quit drinking. It's great to be sober, mind you, but a pain in the ass to feel an unstoppable "need" to check the locks fifty times each night before bed. (One of my biggest OCD triggers is shoes-that-tie. I couldn't leave the house unless both shoes were tied to the precise same tension, an impossibility at best and a challenge made worse courtesy of the fact my feet are different sizes. Ultimately I got rid of all shoes-that-tie).
A couple of years ago, I heard about the notion of Secular Sabbath-- basically forcing oneself offline and off-phone for a day or two each week. From time to time I give it a shot. Rarely do I manage to fully and completely unplug, but some days I get fairly close to the goal. Sometimes this involves talking myself in off the ledge of anxiety, which sadly seems to be my resting state. But once I convince myself that the world won't end if I don't send an email that I meant to send three days ago, the feeling I'm left with is nothing short of exhilarating. Being on the island helped a lot toward this goal simply because connectivity there was limited at best so I had a handy excuse-- no use crying over spilt milk or a spotty wifi connection, might as well go for another hike.
When I got back from that trip, Warren and I made a pact to at least try to leave town one day each week. This is week three and already we missed the mark this past week, but I'm ready to get back on the horse (or at least off the Internet) next week. Meanwhile, the two weeks we were successful yielded excellent results. In late September, on Warren's birthday in fact, we set out into the Hill Country. We stopped at Thyme & Dough Bakery in Drippin', my current favorite bakery. The food, the feel of the place, the porch, the gardens-- if you haven't been make a note to self to get there soon. From T&D we cruised out toward Wimberley, stopping at Old Oaks Ranch (a yarn store/llama ranch/sculpture garden), then on to Canyon Lake. I usually let Warren decide these things since, I am not exaggerating one iota, I can't read a map and just looking at one to consider possible destinations gives me a headache. Besides, as long as I wind up near water, rocks and trees I'm happy.
Sitting by the water for a few hours offers an instant calm I can't get any other way. I know because I've been trying various combinations for years. For decades I had a fear of water, tackled when I learned to swim in my late thirties. But I always loved being near water and one of these days I'm just going to pack up the dogs and move to the beach.
In the meanwhile, I'm glad we've got some lovely bodies of water within easy driving distance. Week Two of our Get-the-Hell-Out-of-Dodge plan found us heading toward Pedernales State Park, a choice made in part so that we could again go to Thyme & Dough. We were just going to grab sandwiches to go but, spellbound by the ambience, we again settled into a table on the porch. The only drawback to this choice was that by the time we made it to the park, we only had a couple of hours before we needed to get back to town for a show.
But we made great use of our time, hiking down the path a ways, the only other humans encountered being a gaggle of seniors that were huffing and puffing their way to an exit. We spotted a huge rock (not hard to do at Pedernales) out in the river and worked our way out to it, then up it. Me being me, I'd brought a hefty book and some knitting. But the trees and water and rocks won. I read about three pages before surrendering, taking time for some meditation in the sun followed immediately by lying on my back gazing up into some lacy branches, delighted to note that one seemed to be giving me the okay sign. I then fell into a really deep sleep. I'm not a napper so it surprised me-- waking up to realize I'd been so soundly asleep, on a rock that was as hard as, well, a rock.
Perhaps the sabbath would've been more fully realized if we'd left the cameras behind but that's one form of technology that follows us wherever we go. So here are some pictures of our adventures. Might I encourage you all to save looking at them for later-- go out and play now. Right this minute.