The Art of the Detour

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I hung a wreath made of autumn leaves on our front door. Fall had announced it’s arrival by splashing the trees that surround our home with brilliant orange and yellow, and vibrant reds and rich brown hues. I was just beginning to enjoy the entrance of the new season when my throat began to have that old familiar itch. Ugh.

I immediately pulled out my arsenal of preventives and began a regimen of salt water gargles, zinc lozenges, and saline spray. The symptoms grew worse by the hour. My throat felt like it had been groomed with a metal rake, and my sinuses felt like they had been replaced with rising yeast dough. Reluctantly, I went to the cupboard and pulled out the nasal rinse bottle. I once wondered why anyone in their right mind would voluntarily bring themselves to near drowning by way of a nasal enema. Yet, desperate times bring desperate measures. As much as I hate this procedure, I have found that it often wards off a head cold and can also reduce sore throat pain. For me, it’s like bringing out the big gun. However, this time I lost the battle.  Along with my balloon head and raw throat, I felt like a rusting tin man who needs oil in every joint. I retreated to the couch and crawled under a soft, cuddly throw.

“I don’t have time to be sick!” I complained.

My husband has heard this at least a thousand times in the course of our marriage. One great thing about our relationship is that we usually know how to make each other feel better. He knows a great foot rub can tame the growling beast, so he served me hot tea and worked on my feet. The next morning he built me a warm, cozy fire in the wood stove before he left for work. Sweet guy. I hauled my blanket and pillow from the bedroom and sat in the recliner, with a box of Kleenex on my lap, and watched a gentle rain through the sunroom window. My energy was zapped. The week’s agenda came to a grinding halt.

But I found that there is something good that can come from sitting in a stationary position, and not wanting to move anything but your eyeballs. You start to notice things that you have missed. My gaze followed the length of the sleepy summer flowerbed. It made me a little sad that it was beginning to wither back into the ground. Then I saw them. Just beyond the glass umbrella table, grew three or four giant, deep purple and soft white, dahlia’s that gracefully balanced atop their tall, slender stems. Image                                                          It was an unexpected second bloom. I had walked by the back window all week without noticing this perfect work of art. If I hadn’t been curled up with my pillow in forced rest, and in full detour of the day’s schedule, I may have missed this completely. I couldn’t help but smile.

My friend, Sharon, has mastered the art of the detour. We often get together when my husband is away on business, or when he has retreated into the Trinity mountains to go hunting. I have learned the most from Sharon while on day trips to various places that we have read about, and then made plans to explore.

It has been my nature to take the shortest point from  “A” to “B”. My motto is: Get there. But when its Sharon’s turn to drive, she prefers to find little side roads that in a round about way will eventually lead us to our destination.

It was fall and we made plans to take our first long day trip into Northern California wine country. I had grown up in that area and absolutely loved being there during the harvest season. So I was excited to go back for a visit when grape clusters still hang on the vines and are surrounded by leaves that are tipped with a hint of fall color.

We left just after sunrise and Sharon was in the driver seat. She mentioned that she wanted to take a nice little drive on a back road that would eventually drop us into the Napa Valley. In fact, she thought it might even be a short cut. I had never heard of this particular route, but if it was short cut, I was all for it. Soon we were on a road that wound its way up through a wooded mountain range. Up and down, and around and around we went. I have to admit that I was a bit antsy to, well, get there, so after what seemed like days, I asked, “Are you sure you know where you are going?”

I was use to zipping down a four lane highway, then taking a short jaunt on a two lane highway – and “Ta-da!” I was back in the valley where I had grown up. We had been on that road so long I could swear we were headed to Canada. I began to wonder if we would be viewing the vineyards under the midnight moon.

“Yeah.” Sharon calmly answered. That was it. No explanation.

So stated that I had never heard of the route we were on – and I use to live in that valley. At least that was where I hoped we were headed.

She chuckled. Then she commented on how lovely the trees were along the roadside. I looked out the window and thought, we are so lost.

One thing I really like about my friend Sharon is that she can maintain a certain state of serenity, even when I am getting a little on the wound up side. It can have a calming effect on me…most of the time.

Another great thing about my friend is that she totally cracks up when I make sarcastic remarks like, “Excuse me sir, can you tell us where the Napa Valley is because we have no idea where we are. However, we are enjoying the lovely trees along the way.”

Laughter makes the heart merry – and sometimes calms a wound up friend.

The road eventually led us on a curving ride into the golden foothills and then dropped us into wine country – just as Sharon had said it would. I ate my words.

                                                  Image        Along the way, we passed by beautiful country vineyards that I had never traveled far enough north to see. Some of the vineyards were small and quaint and inviting. Others spread majestically over several hillsides. We rolled down the windows and breathed in the fresh air. I relaxed into my seat and soaked in the perfect scenery. It was indeed a lovely drive!

    Sharon found a small park off the beaten path where we enjoyed a picnic lunch, then we continued to drive along the back roads and found several smaller wineries with beautiful grounds where we could stroll about and snap pictures. And after a long day of exploring, wine tasting, and trying new foods, we got into the car and headed home. This time, we took the four lane highway. It was dark and late, and my eyelids were heavy. I arrived home under the midnight moon.

That day I discovered a richness that can be found in taking the road less traveled. It slows your pace, offering you a break from a high-speed world. Your breathing slows and your muscles relax. And the road less traveled often leads to new discoveries that you would have otherwise missed. Since that day, I have taken many more detours, and have enjoyed all that the backroads have to offer.

Sometimes I forget that the art of the detour isn’t limited to road trips. It can happen right here at home. Like stopping for just a moment to look out at the flower garden, where I may find something unexpected and beautiful. I have also come to realize that a detour may present itself in a completely different way.

Sometimes my plans are abruptly interrupted. Often times that can mean those plans go right out the window. I do not like it when that happens. In fact, I can down right resent it. When I have made a specific plan, I like to stick to it until I have completed it. There have been times when an interruption has changed the course of my life, and at the time I couldn’t see the good in it.

Yet I have found that those interruptions can often lead to a detour that brings hidden blessings that I would have otherwise missed. I have made different decisions that have yielded better outcomes. I have gained new perspectives on life that I may not have seen without the detour. I have found that some interruptions require selfless acts of kindness, which sometimes entails a major attitude adjustment on my part. Yet there is a goodness that comes from that, a goodness that reaches to the depths of the soul.

And at the end of the day, when my head hits the pillow, I sleep well.

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Run!

                                                                                                                  

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I am always up for an adventure – especially those that promise an adrenaline rush or two. So, exploring new territories, and close encounters with the wild, hovers near the top of my priority list.

When I was growing up, summertime meant family camping trips, exploring national parks, and swimming in whatever body of water we could find. So it was inevitable that I marry an outdoor type of guy who grew up doing the same sort things. Camping has been a summer event for our own family for many years and has included several state parks.

Traveling to Canada and spending some time where the wild things are was on our “Gotta do it” list. So when our friends invited our family to join them on a camping excursion to a remote area of Canada, we were thrilled. We carefully planned our three week adventure and before long it was time to hit the road.

After a two day journey northward, we arrived at Moosehorn, a small, private camping area in British Columbia, with our travel trailer packed with enough food to feed an army for a month. No one would go hungry.

We echoed “Ooo’s” and “Ahh’s” as we scanned the beautiful lake that curbed the secluded property.  We peaked into the windows of the few rustic cabins that dotted the lakeside and we watched the Loon’s flap their wings and glide across the water.

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Then we set up camp and settled in.

Over the next few days, we enjoyed fishing on the lake and taking rides in our small, aluminum boat. The lake provided the perfect perch to view the abundance of wildlife that shared the territory with us. I snapped my camera at nesting bald eagles, coyote, and deer drinking at the lakeside.

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Then we spotted a couple baby grizzly bears frolicking on the hillside. My husband steered our boat closer to shore for a better view, stopping about a hundred yards from the shoreline. I felt safe with a large span of water between our boat and the baby grizzly show. Although I have to admit, I wondered where the momma grizzly was hiding and if she could smell our fish cooking in the evenings.

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There were no septic hook-ups, so we had to use the grounds facilities, which were somewhat primitive. There was a flush toilet in the wash house across the campground, but our friend’s directed us to an outhouse which stood conveniently at a stone’s throw away from our campsite – if you had a good arm. It was also hidden by a large overgrowth of trees and bushes. This made me a bit nervous, but I decided not to be a wussy and use it anyway.

While inside, I contemplated the possibility of a grizzly meandering by and discovering the wild berry bush next to the John. I wished I had not come alone. I considered yelling for my husband to come and get me, but I thought I might sound like a wounded animal that would make the perfect no-cook meal. I also knew that my husband would not let me live it down. So instead, I pressed my face up against the splintering wall of the latrine and peeked through the tiny cracks of the wooden boards. When it looked like all directions were clear, I swung the door open and sprinted toward our campsite. Once I was in the clearing, I did my best to do a casual stride into camp. No one knew the difference. From then on, I walked the further distance to the flush latrine that was situated in a large clearing, stating that I preferred toilets that flush versus those which look like bottomless pits. That seemed to work.

Following the precautions given to us, I restricted my daily exercise to walking or jogging around the large field behind our campsite. I kept an eye on the surrounding forest and wondered if a grizzly with poor eyesight could mistake me for an over-sized jack rabbit. I hopped a little faster.

After a few days of running around in restricted circles, I told my husband I needed to expand my horizons and go on a long walk – on a straight road. He agreed to walk with me. We reviewed bear safety rules as we walked away from the open field and along a dirt road that led toward town. It felt good to have a change of scenery. We were about a half mile into our walk and were joking about what we would do should we encounter a grizzly. My husband said, “You know you’re not suppose to run.” I wondered just how fast I could run if death was chasing me. Then he added, “But if you do run, you better make sure you’re faster than the guy next to you.” He looked at me and grinned. My husband is a runner – and qualified for Nationals in the 800 meters while in college. I decided that it was time to head back to camp.

We walked briskly and spoke louder than usual as we made our way back down the road, hoping to ward off anything that lurked in the woods. I wondered if a grizzly was capable of sneaking up behind us and I wished I had a rearview mirror attached to my head.

When I saw the Moosehorn sign I was relieved. “Looks like we made it!” I said.

“Yep,” my husband replied, “Looks like we’re not going be a grizzly’s dinner tonight!”

I laughed nervously and looked over my shoulder.

We rounded the bend onto the Moosehorn property and started chatting about other things. It was then that I heard a low, guttural grunt come from the thick bushes to my right. The little hairs on the back of my neck pricked up like quills on the back of a porcupine. I kept my pace and I looked over at my husband. He was looking at me wide-eyed. “Did you hear that?” I asked in a hoarse whisper. “You mean that grunt sound?” He whispered back. We both looked over our shoulders and quickened our pace.

“Whatever you do, don’t run!” He said in a louder whisper. His teeth were clenched.

“You don’t run either!” I whispered back. I noticed I was having to double-step it to keep up with him.

Just then there was a loud crack about 30 yards behind us. It sounded like a small tree being snapped in two. I restrained a scream, but a stifled sound that mimicked a cow in labor made it’s way through my pressed lips. I won’t repeat what my husband said.

We both hit Olympic speed walking pace, with a few hops thrown in. Buns tight. Tails affright. Our feet were forward, our bodies faced each other, arms pumping, and our heads were whipping front to back. I wondered if the paddling Loons on the lake would think we were an odd species doing a mating dance.

Another loud whack came from behind us. I shot off like a steel marble in pinball machine. It was survival of the fittest. I was in front.

I heard my husband’s panicked voice hit high tenor, “Don’t run!!”

He passed me and took the lead.

“You are!!” I shouted and I reached out and grabbed the back of his shirt.

We both stumbled. I struggled to keep my legs from entangling with his, but held my grip.

“Ahh!!” He let out a labored yelp, “Let go!!!”

It’s strange what one can do when they face possible death. I gripped the back of his shirt with an iron hand.

“No way man! If I go, you go!” I shouted.

My feet bounced and skidded over the dirt like a bare-footed water skier. My husband’s shirt tail was my tow rope.

He burst into grimaced laughter. I joined him.  We struggled to keep in motion, and our laughter quickly progressed to wheezing with intermittent squeaks. I could feel my grasp on his shirt growing weaker. I envisioned doing a cartwheel off the side of the road and becoming human toast.

We came around a curve in the road and I saw the first cabin. I wondered what the occupants would do if a half-crazed couple came diving through their front door. I looked over my shoulder to see if our would be attacker was in sight. The road was empty. “No bear coming!” I gasped. My husband slowed his pace and I skidded to a stop. We stood solitude, hands on our knees and catching our breath.

We figured the grunt we heard was our warning to move on – which we did with enthusiasm.

“You ran.” I said.

“You did too.” My husband answered.

“So, who’s faster?” I asked.

“You held my shirt.” He replied.

I guess we’ll never know.

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Confessions of an Island Tourist

    I relaxed in a patio chair on the lanai of an island condo, enjoying a spectacular view of the Pacific ocean while I worked on my writing. What more could I ask for? I watched turtles gliding through the waves, as near by snorkelers bobbed up and down, and an occasional whale would breach the surface and come crashing down into the deep blue water. While vacationing in Kauai, I was privy to a true Paradise. However, I have to admit, during my tropical get a way I made a couple tourist blunders that left me a little red-faced.

One of my favorite activities is swimming and snorkeling in the aqua marine water that surrounds the Hawaiian islands. One day my husband and I were snorkeling in a popular cove with our good friends, Mark and Beth. Eventually, we all drifted apart as we each followed different schools of tropical fish. Although I thoroughly enjoy participating in submarine adventures, in the back of my mind I am aware that I am sharing the territory with some potentially unfriendly creatures – namely, sharks.

                                                              Fool Me Once

A most brilliantly colored fish had drawn my attention and I had been following it for quite some time, when suddenly I felt something sharp scratch at my leg. An adrenaline rush hit my chest and spread pins and needles to my extremities. I sucked a puff of air through my snorkel as I jerked my leg up toward my chest and looked over my shoulder, hoping not to see my worst nightmare staring me in the face. What I found was the face of our friend – with a snorkel-clenched grin. I shot to the surface and pulled my snorkel from my mouth just as he came to the surface laughing. “You brat!” I hollered, “You’re lucky I’m not carrying a spear-gun!” I laughed as he popped back under the surface. Then I looked around for my husband while treading water and waited for my racing heart to slow it’s pace. Now you would think after suffering such a nerve-rattling offense, that I would never consider inflicting it on someone else. However, I have always thought that one good trick deserves another, so when I caught sight of my husband’s bobbing snorkel, I headed straight for him.

                                                               Fool Me Twice

As I made my stealth underwater approach, I made sure that I stayed directly behind my husband so that I could make my attack un-detected. I maneuvered carefully until I was close enough to see his blondish leg hairs glistening in the sunlit waters. Then I slowly reached forward and was just about to give those hairs a good pull when I noticed that my husband was wearing a different color of swim trunks. I jerked my hand back as one of my fingers just brushed the stranger’s leg and I saw him turn in my direction. I whirled a 180 and shot out of there like a sailfish! Did you know that sailfish can swim up to 70 mph? If they were land creatures, they could out race the average freeway driver. O.K., maybe my fins weren’t going quite that fast, but I was on the move and I never looked back!

                                                                        I Give Up

I decided to avoid pulling any more underwater pranks, although I just couldn’t help but being playful while exploring the underwater world. I mean, life just wouldn’t be fun without playfulness…right?

I had been chasing a cute parrot fish, that would teasingly stay just a few inches from my reach, when I saw my husband snorkeling close by. I did a quick scan to be sure it was indeed the man I married – same color swim trunks, same color snorkel gear, body build matched, and short spiked light color hair – yep, that was him. I was excited about the brilliant fish I had been playing with and wanted my husband to see it. So, in my excitement I quickly made a submerged swim toward him. He was busy studying a small school of fish at the time, so I playfully dove under him and popped up essentially mask to mask and gave him a big grin. He grinned back. It is amazing how different your spouse can look while underwater. Hello? It is also amazing how you can feel the embarrassed heat in your cheeks while you are submerged in

cool water…

 

…reverse fins…

                                                          

                             

                                     

                                                                   Stranger Alert

I had been thoroughly enjoying every aspect of my vacation, including all the yummy tropical desserts which were available, which meant I had to burn off those extra calories somehow. We had just returned from a wonderful day on the beach and I had finished washing off my snorkel gear ahead of my husband and our friends who were with me. So I left them at the outside water faucet in the condo parking lot and I hustled up the outside stairs for some extra exercise. I jogged up a couple extra floors higher than ours, then down a three and back up one to our third story condo, feeling pretty good that with all that I was still the first one back to the condo. I was breathing hard when I walked up to our door. It was then that I noticed that the outside privacy door was closed, but the inner security door was wide open. I dropped my gear and in full alert I cautiously opened the privacy door to find a man standing across the room with his back toward me. The stereo was playing and he was casually leaning against the edge of the  sliding glass door which opened to the lanai. He apparently was feeling quite at home, as he had poured himself a glass of wine and seemed to be enjoying the ocean view.

I don’t consider myself to be the bravest person on earth, but when it comes to fight or flight, I become a fighter. I took a quick breath in and held it as I planted my feet and clenched my fists at my sides. I was just about to yell, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” when I noticed that a different sofa was in our condo…then I heard the voices of my husband and friends echoing from the corridor on the floor below me. Really? I cringed and silently mouthed my panic. I had officially created an all new meaning to the word, dork. I took a cautious step back from the condo entrance and bit my lip as I carefully closed the privacy door in front of me, hoping that Joe islander would stay entranced with the scenic view. But the door clicked as it closed and he started to turn in my direction. I let go of the door handle, whipped around while scooping up my snorkel gear and shot out of there like a sailfish on land. Have you ever tried to run quietly on your tip-toes while wearing flip flops? The flapping sound reminded me of playing cards wedged into the spokes of a fast moving bicycle. The noise bounced off the halls of the corridor as I ran to the staircase and made my escape.  I didn’t slow my pace until I reached the condo with the familiar sofa, and a living room occupied by people I recognized.  My aerobics were done for the day.

Have you ever been, so to speak, caught with your pants down? I would love to know that I am not alone. Mahalo!

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