In the venerable tradition from elementary school, I thought I’d take my space this week to reflect on my summer vacation.
Of course, when I was a child, this was an excruciating exercise as I’m sure most former and current students will agree. It’s a process that in the beginning tends to be simply a recounting of events that must be as excruciating for teachers to read as it is for their young charges to write.
I’m starting to see it as a very valuable process, though, one that over time allows one to “know thyself.”
Reflecting on what you liked, what you didn’t like and what you were indifferent about allows you to really maximize the all-too-short time we have for leisure.
Back in my 20s and 30s I measured the success of a vacation by how much stuff I was able to pack into the time I had off.
The disadvantage of that was that by the time I dragged my butt home on the Sunday night before having to go back to work, I really needed a vacation from my vacation.
As time went on, I came to know I needed a buffer zone between the action-packed vacation and the dreaded return to work. Easy enough, come back on Saturday instead of Sunday.
But as the years continued to pass, the required buffer zone seemed to expand.
These days, my holiday measure of success is slightly different. In fact, it’s pretty much opposite.
The buffer zone, those glorious few days to wind down after a whirlwind of activity, has become the vacation itself, punctuated here and there with strategically scheduled activity so as to maximize the relaxation factor.
By the new criteria my most recent vacation, from which I have just returned, was very successful indeed as I spent much of it just sitting around doing nothing.
Well, not exactly nothing. I read a few books, swam a bit, played golf and cricket and visited friends, but from the perspective of the aforementioned younger me, I would have considered it just about the most tedious holiday imaginable.
Now, I’ve always been fairly self-sufficient in terms of my capacity for internal entertainment, but this summer I feel like I’ve reached a new zenith in the art of the do-nothing vacation.
Case in point, on the third day, we were camping out at Duck Mountain. There was a squirrel rooting around the campsite looking for food so I chucked him a chunk of hamburger bun, which he immediately scurried off with to store away.
I wondered how he would feel about a cashew. This he took directly to the base of a tree and ate.
From there I tried numerous different combinations of bread, crackers, various types of nuts placed further and closer to me, spread out or clustered together.
What I discovered was that squirrels, or at least this particular squirrel prefers cashews most and nuts over bread depending on proximity. Given a choice, he would take bread over crackers; he would store peanuts and almonds, but eat cashews and walnuts.
I spent the better part of an entire afternoon doing this.
I know, it’s hardly scientific, and I can’t draw any reliable conclusions about his species, although I could probably design a real experiment if I was so inclined.
The most important thing I learned, however, is that I can be perfectly happy doing what I would have previously considered absolutely nothing. I guess I am simply getting too old to be bored.