Amazed at how much of an impact 11 hours could have on me for a week afterwards
So often, it seems that really unplugging and recharging involves heading out of state for a weekend, or spending a week or two somewhere that requires plane tickets. Then we resume our daily grind. But a day trip really highlighted for me that this doesn't have to be the case.
We spent last Saturday in the Berkshires, and it was merely a day trip, costing a little over a hundred bucks. We arrived in Stockbridge for breakfast, and left Sheffield in time to be home for dinner, with time in Great Barrington sandwiched in between.
Having done some research, we enjoyed breakfast on Stockbridge's scenic Main Street. We were engrossed in the art, history, and the focus on community captured at the Norman Rockwell Museum. We learned about the intersection of science and fun at the Berkshire Mountain Distillery. We perused antiques, browsing for possible purchases and seeing how daily life has evolved based on the purposes of those antiques. We found the oldest covered bridge in Massachusetts. And we listened to a band playing a host of instruments, mostly in a bluegrass style, at a cozy craft brewery off the beaten path.
The day was filled with scenery, history, interactions with people, exploration, and learning. Even the drive was pleasant, with time to chat and reconnect after a busy work week for us both. The day fostered curiosity, a sense of community and shared experience, happiness, and above all, fulfillment.
We ran out of time before we ran out of places to explore. But that feeling of being lost in the moment, and enjoying a "moment" that lasted for hours, has left us both recharged in the week since that day. It highlights that the smaller places and events surrounding us can create powerful, positive impacts. It also challenged us: what else might be so close by, that can leave us so energized and connected? It will be an exciting question to answer.
Perhaps this is a challenge you might also be excited to ask yourself?
Appreciating time with loved ones more than anything that's wrapped and under the tree
Everyone has their own holidays, and their own traditions for those days. For those who celebrate Christmas, I've noticed that, regardless of their particular traditions, it's a period of greater emotions.
The month is filled with more intensity and more activity, between the holiday parties, gifts, times spent with friends and family, mailing packages, and so on. That intensity can be seen from people becoming irate about a fight for a parking space or the last popular toy in stock; it can be seen in the care with which presents are selected; it can be felt with the hugs instead of handshakes, as friends greet each other. That emotion can also be hidden as people privately grieve those no longer with them, for whom any gift would gladly be traded for one more day.
As we get older, I think holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are centered around time with loved ones, become more bittersweet. We become aware of the passing and preciousness of time.
For me, it's become a conscious decision and deliberate tradition to try to be up before anyone else, and to sit in front of the tree and fire with my coffee and to reflect: to remember those I can't spend the day with, and to love the moments I had; to appreciate those with whom I'll spend the day; and to cherish the memories waiting to be made. I'll accept the tears tied to past loss in order to have the laughs tied to the people still with me.
The intensity of both emotions are part of living vibrantly. They're part of the gifts of the season, and I accept both with gratitude, embracing the moment for whatever it brings and all it has to offer. Happy holidays to all who read this.
Being mindful of the things that matter in life
I think it's neat to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving near where it actually occurred, in one of the areas where the country first began, and with ancestors stretching back to that time and place. It makes the various celebrations feel very authentic and personally connected. But in stripping away the pomp and circumstance, the food and family traditions, I've come to enjoy the premise of pausing to appreciate your life, to be mindful in a way life's daily grind sometimes seems to preclude.
For me, the last decade of Thanksgiving has involved some sort of road trip in New England. It turns the meal into a family adventure. Each year we try to find a way to keep it fresh. This year will include Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant in a quiet, nearby village. It will also involve seeing a play, wandering amidst a holiday lights display, shopping at small businesses, and seeing where else our path leads.
The food is the least of my interests; my focus is around the immersive time with family, being able to laugh, share stories, play games, and engage in a way we couldn't do in a single meal or day.
Despite life's inevitable challenges and some years being particularly tough, or maybe being mindful because of those things, I give thanks for the chance to really connect with the people who mean the most to me.
Coming to my senses.
Oftentimes, when I'm photographing a sunrise I lose myself in that moment. But it's focused around a set of factors that are all visual: figuring out my angle, the perspective, waiting for the clouds to shift.
There are times I'm aware of the breeze - especially in winter; or can feel the sand between my toes; or wince against the bite of wind-driven snow on my cheeks. But it mostly is a sight-based effort.
When I stood alone on a dock on Nantucket, taking in the morning sun, it was enjoyably different. The dock extended far out into the harbor. The morning breeze felt refreshing. Yet, it was the lapping of the waves against the dock and the hulls of all of the boats that was most striking. After I finished capturing the scene, I stood and just absorbed the sights, the feel, and also the sound.
It was a reminder that while it's great to get lost in an activity, it's also still worth pausing to allow an alternate experience to occur. That morning, so still except for the perpetual movement of nature, was one of the better little moments of my year.
Appreciating some morning commutes
On the days when I can work remotely and am by the shore, I'm willing to drag myself out of bed before dawn. I'll scout for a scenic spot and watch the sky slowly explode with color.
Once the sun is above the horizon, it quickly transitions from colorful to bright. But those minutes when the sun hasn't yet broken through or hangs low on the horizon can be magical. The world is generally still quiet, but nature's beauty is on full display for those willing to witness it.
Recently, I was at the Chatham Fish Pier, which may be more lively at dawn than any other point of the day. Unlike the empty beaches, working harbors such as this can be bustling with activity. Fishermen are working hard to prep for a day of hard work on the sea, workers on the docks are helping to supply them, and seals hover alongside boats for any stray bait that might get tossed their way.
As I drive back to get a local coffee and start my day, I sometimes wonder: while these are demanding jobs, are they able to briefly pause as they leave the harbor to enjoy a sunrise on the ocean? Such moments of beauty are fleeting, but can sometimes fuel the rest of the day.
The Good Life...
is filled with little snippets of time that can disproportionately impact our days. This is a chance to capture and share them.