10 things I learned last week

by Pari

1.  I’m not a big city girl anymore.
Last week our family stayed with friends on an island near Seattle. We thought we’d go into the city several times to sightsee (or visit my fav bookstore in the area). We did make the ferry crossing – once – and found that all we really wanted to do was get back to the island. I guess at this point in my life, I’m simply more impressed with natural wonders such as Dungeness Spit than any man-made structure.

2.  Don’t go to the Seattle Aquarium.
Frankly, I was stunned; it was very expensive and totally depressing. From the joylessness of every person working or volunteering there to the message that humankind is destroying ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING to the gulag-like mammal/bird exhibits, the experience was a bummer.

3.  Deer are beautiful except  . . .
I spotted three bald eagles and two raccoons, a tiny squirrel, scores of jelly fish – deep red and some that looked like raw eggs – and sea stars that were purple, pink, orange, tan and yellow (my kids saw otters) all in the wild. To observe deer walking around without a care was a thrill.

However, my friends don’t feel the same way. Their new aspen tree has been denuded. Their garden has to be protected with fencing. So, yeah, I get it. Deer are beautiful except when they’re eating your yard.

4.  I’ll never tire of taking pictures of flowers.

5.  Yakima cherries really ARE that good.
Firm and sweet, deep red-purple and juicy. Yakima cherries are all that with a hint of tartness that surprises in every mouthful.

6.  Three people can polish off 42 oysters and still have room for a full Thai meal.

7.  Seven days without television is bliss.
No news blaring. No stupid, insulting shows. No commercials exhorting us to buy more of what we don’t need.

8.  Seven days without computer contact is heaven.
I read four books in six days, took daily long walks, ate wonderfully, and experienced so much gratitude about being alive that it altered my whole perspective on life. While I don’t think computers OR televisions are bad, I do know that I can quiet myself more easily when I’m not spending time with either.

And quiet heals my soul.

9.  Slowing down isn’t the same thing as stopping.
I wrote little but felt as if my creative center was working hard, rewiring for new projects and approaches. While I simply let myself be, connected with my natural rhythm, my being experienced a molecular peace.

10. Change is easy when you’re away from the familiar; it’s a challenge once you’re home again.
Within minutes of arriving at our house, the kids had turned on the television. Today, my first day back, I’ve spent at least three hours on the computer – sorting through emails, writing this blog, catching up – and I wonder if I’ll be able to remember, to evoke somehow, the calm I felt so strongly less than 24 hours ago.


Wish me luck.


1. When was the last time you took a healing vacation – a calm one? Where did you go?

2. Are you a vacationer that prefers action? Visiting and sightseeing? Tell us about a vacation like that that you enjoyed.


36 thoughts on “10 things I learned last week

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    It sounds like you had a wonderful and some much needed down time. Put it on your list to do it again (soon).
    I don’t really take vacations per se but on days off I prefer to be at home with no obligations expected of me. I am most definitely not a "let’s plan an activity" type of person. To me, the best vacation would be to tell everyone we’re gone but then stay home.
    What four books did you read? Sorry, book addicts just always ask that and like to know. 🙂

  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Oh, that water shot… gorgeous.

    It sounds heavenly, Pari, I’m jealous and happy for you.

    Any vacation without computer and TV is a good one. This year, my cross-country road trips have been really healing for me, but it’s about time I had a healing vacation that wasn’t all driving.

  3. Rachel Walsh

    Pari, your vacation sounds divine, exactly the sort I love.

    My last vacation was ten days on Kangaroo Island, off the south coast of Australia (I live in Adelaide, South Australia, so being an hour and half drive plus a 45 minute ferry ride away, the island is "local" to me.) With its pristine beaches, loads of wildlife (seals, koalas, eagles, goannas, and of course, kangaroos), and fish pulled straight from the sea for dinner every night, our stay was heavenly. And best of all was the almost complete lack of cell phone and internet coverage. Bliss!

  4. JT Ellison

    Ah, a REAL vacation! I’m having one at the end of August, and I can’t wait. I think it’s imperative to stay off the computer when you’re trying to recharge.

    Lovely pictures, and glad you got a chance to get away!

  5. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    My last real vacation was my honeymoon, to Kauai, around fifteen years ago. I’m ready for the next one. Vacation that is, not honeymoon : )
    I keep saying I’ll take a week with the family in Cambria when the boat-load of cash arrives.

  6. pari noskin taichert

    There’s no way I could relax like that at home — not with the kids and our routines — but, maybe, someday.

    The books:
    The Lightning Thief — Rick Riordan
    Komarr — Lois McMaster Bujold
    The Elegance of the Hedgehog — Muriel Barbury
    The Language of Threads — Gail Tsukiyami

    And I started The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, MD.

    Can’t wait to read about it.

    I think taking a vacation with the intention of calm is very different than finding it in passing. I hope you give yourself that gift soon.

  7. Judy Wirzberger

    Pari, how marvelous for you. You’ve planted seeds in my mind. I close my eyes and am transported to the time I spent there. There’s a marvelous place called Tangier Island in the Chesapeake. I shall away myself one of these years. (Not next year – I’m going to New Mexico in March.)

  8. Jessica Scott

    The last time my family went down to Padre Island and camped out. No email, no TV, nothing but waves and sand and coyotes. It was awesome just sitting by the fire with my husband, listening to the wind, and not feeling the compulsion to work on my WIP. It’s a pain in the neck getting there but so worth the relaxation and the trip. Plus, I introduced my children to the beauty of smores, and there is nothing better than smores cooked over a fire.

  9. Barbara

    What a lovely way to quiet your soul!

    For our honeymoon, my husband and I went to Mackinac Island in Michigan. If anyone remembers "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, that was shot on the island. No cars are allowed. You have to walk, bike or take a horse and buggy. We went just as things were gearing up for the tourist season and at times it felt like we were all alone. It was the perfect way to unwind, particularly being we both lived/worked in/near NYC at the time. I felt assaulted by all the noise when I walked up out of the subway the first day back!

    I am a cherry aficionado–my kitchen even has a cherry decor–and Yakima cherries are among the best. Michigan cherries are great as well.

  10. billie

    Pari, it sounds perfectly wonderful!

    Most of the vacations we have taken have been that kind – I don’t like to travel and then go to all the nearby "attractions" every minute of the day and night. My favorite thing when going to different parts of the country/world is to find a comfortable place to stay where we can cook, and wander around finding the smaller joys of the place, including the landscape and nature.

    In a parallel life I am traveling from small town to small town, all over the world, staying a month or two in each one, learning the rhythms and unique beauties of each place.

    And I completely relate to the shell-shock of coming back home after being away. It’s almost scary how quickly we get pulled back to the distractions of daily life in our home routines.

  11. CarlC

    Pari, glad to see you got to enjoy our neighborhood. We live on Dungeness Bay, with a view of the spit, with Victoria BC on the horizon beyond it. In fact, our house is just off the right side of the picture of the spit that is on the page you linked to in your posting. If we’d known you were in the neighborhood, we would have been glad to meet you.

    Right now, we’re working on plans for a trip to Yellowstone this summer (with all the crowds, I know). We were last there more than 40 years ago and need to see it again. Last big vacation was four weeks in Hawaii (Kauii, Maui, Hawaii) about a year and a half ago; still savoring many parts of that one.

  12. pari noskin taichert

    That’s exactly what I’m talking about! It sounds wonderful. But . . . what’s a goanna?

    Is your friend’s home peaceful? If so, do you notice a difference in your writing?

    I’m so happy you’ll get a REAL vacation soon. You’ve been working so hard.

    Please . . . take a vacation, go somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit . . . when you’re ready.

  13. pari noskin taichert

    Take a vacation NOW! Cambria can wait for those boatloads of money, but you shouldn’t have to.

    I’d love to hear more about Tangier Island.
    As to NM in March, that will be a fun and hectic time with loads of people . . .unless you stay longer and visit other places in the state.

    I want a smore right now!
    Actually I’ve heard a lot about how gorgeous Padre Island is. Do you know if it’s been affected by the oil spill?

    When I lived in Michigan, I went to Mackinac Island. It was beautiful. Of course, much of rural MI is. I used to love to drive to a nearby lake and just be . . .
    As to cherries, I’d love to know which ones are your favorite. I adore them but am very particular about the fruit itself; it has to be firm and fleshy with FLAVOR.

  14. pari noskin taichert

    I’m fortunate to have at least one child who hates crowds . . . so all of the standard tourist places are pretty much out. There’s not even the temptation. And I think we’re going to do exactly what you describe if we ever go on a vacation again — that’s a big IF. We’ll have two children in private school next year.

    And, yes, I’m in shock already.

    Are you in Sequim?
    Your neck of the woods is stunning. I loved the spit AND was surprised at how long it really is. We made it halfway with our kids before legs and moods gave out. But the day we were there, the Olympic Mountains were also in view and they were staggeringly beautiful.

    If I didn’t live in NM, I’d envy you.

  15. Allison Davis

    Pari, this is so timely for me. I am trying to plan a three month sabbatical and I am yearning for peacefulness, calm, a place to write and paint (and the mentality). I have rejected all the suggestions of world travel and am thinking of car camping/road trip and maybe getting a dog. I will spend some time in my New Orleans place but it’s not remote enough.

    The last time I had such a peaceful vacation was 2005, I was in St. Lucia and it was the third week of a vacation…I sent the kid and the (now ex) husband home and had a week by myself, literally. I was in a gorgeous location overlooking the sea, beautiful garden, plenty of food and wine. I had no electronics and just painted and wrote and talked to the birds, but not another human being for 6 days. Bliss. I long for that again.

  16. CarlC

    As far as the post office is concerned, Pari, we live in Sequim (pronounced "Skwim", for those of you who don’t know), but we like to say Dungeness, since the city is 7 miles south of us. We wake up every morning to the spit and the mountains, unless fog or clouds have found us, and still marvel that we get to live in such a place. Went to Santa Fe for a week or so this time last year for friends’ 50th anniversary, so we can understand your love for NM. Wet is better than dry for us, though.

  17. Barb Goffman

    I do a lot of stay-at-home vacations. Reading when I want. Sleeping when I want. TV and movies when I want. Time with the dog. But the last true calming vacation I took was in 2005 (wow – that was a long time ago). I went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in mid-September all by myself. The crowds were gone. There were maybe 10 other people on the beach. It was so quiet and calm, listening to the waves rushing in and out, my feet in the sand, and at times in the surf. I’m getting relaxed just thinking about it. The only problem with that vacation is I had envisioned myself sitting on the beach in jeans and a sweatshirt, reading. Temperature in the ’60s. I don’t know what I was thinking, because that’s New England weather in September, not North Carolina. It was 85 degrees out. Still lovely, but not exactly what I’d had planned.

  18. Kaye Barley

    oh this was lovely, Pari !
    Donald and I always, always, try to take quiet, healing vacations. Had one all lined up for this year, but instead spent it with Donald in the hospital and me & Harley the Wonder Corgi in a hotel room close by. He’s fine now and getting stronger every day. I, on the other hand, am (now that it’s over) having a very tough time with it all. And feeling huge amounts of sadness over missing our trip, and unbelievable amounts of anger (unlike me, really, to feel this mad for this long) at the people who refuse to allow us to rebook our trip at a different time, or give us even a partial refund so that Donald and I might get away somewhere quiet, beautiful and peaceful to celebrate together the fact that he’s still here with me.
    So I’m vacationing vicariously with friends and through beach reads right now. Your trip sounds simply perfect!

  19. Jake Nantz

    Pari, I certainly wish you well in your attempt to recapture that peacefulness. As for really great vacations, my wife and I have gone on two. We’re go-and-do-and-see people when on vacation, so the whole go to some beach paradise and lay out for seven days doesn’t interest us much. Peaceful and boring are sometimes too close along a razor’s edge.

    The greatest present I have ever gotten in my life was when my then-fiance conspired with my mother (plane tickets aren’t cheap, and we’re both teachers, so…) to fly the two of us to LA for my 30th birthday to see my first-ever Dodger game live in Chavez Ravine. We flew all day Friday, slept in Saturday morning (and still woke at 8:30…that time difference works well in that direction), then took the Metro to Union Station, had lunch in Chinatown, spent about 3 hours that afternoon on the rides at Universal Studios, and then watched the Dodgers come back and beat the Cardinals that night. Flew home Sunday and took Monday off for the lag.

    For our honeymoon we went to DisneyWorld, and spent every day going through the parks having the time of our lives. Even stopped in at Sea World and had a blast there as well. It was the perfect honeymoon with the perfect woman. We’re next hoping to save enough…on two teachers’ salaries…to fly out west and take a cruise to Alaska. And someday we hope to visit England-Scotland-and-Wales. Of course, if we get there and my wife meets and hears ANYONE with a Scottish accent, I may not be able to get her to leave, so that one may be in the future…

  20. pari noskin taichert

    That sounds like a perfect vacation. The sabbatical should be enough time to truly recharge. I’d love that amount of time. Maybe after Left Coast Crime next year, when I’ve finished with my responsibilities as chair, I’ll just turn off the computer — except for Murderati posts — and write by hand — and just take a mini vacation for a few months . . . Oh, wow, I’ll have to use the computer for work. I guess I’ll have to see how I can manage it again.

    Wet is glorious. I couldn’t get over the health of the gardens: pea plants the size of trees. I’ve already pulled out all of ours because it’s too hot and dry.

    That sounds heavenly. And isn’t chilly nice when the rest of the world is hot? I loved that where we were was almost 40 degrees cooler than NM. It made it even more of a treat.

  21. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, Kaye,
    How awful to plan that kind of joy and to have it stolen — in more ways than one — so brutally. I’m so glad that Donald is getting stronger, is healing, but you’ve got to do something for yourself. Even if you only take a weekend and go somewhere quiet, I think you ought to try. Please. It’ll dissolve that anger and upset and let you balance again.

    I know that there are many people who are like you — having a riotously wonderful time seeing and doing. I met a woman at the swimming pool right before we took our vacation and she was talking about her itinerary and I felt exhausted just listening to her. I guess my life is so hectic on a daily basis that I can’t imagine building that into a vacation — at least not anymore, not since we’ve had children.

    As to Scotland and accents . . . yes . . . you’d better wait <g>.

  22. Barbara


    I has some Bing and Rainier cherries last week and wasn’t impressed with the flavor. For firm and fleshy, Lapins and Sweethearts, are good choices. I get them later in the summer, usually at a fruit market.

  23. Allison Brennan

    It’s scary when my most relaxing vacation was Disneyland with the kids . . .

    I did take a weekend and go to the mountains (cabin, not camping!) with the kids, no cell phone reception or internet. But that was just a weekend . . . if I did a week, I’d need no kids for true relaxation! Maybe just a long weekend . . .

  24. KDJames / BCB

    I’ve had so many "vacations" that were like Jake describes. Hectic, but fun and exciting with a lot to see and do. Especially when the kids were young. The kind where you need a vacation afterward to recover.

    This spring, for the first time ever, I took a week and went to the beach all by myself. It was wonderful. And I needed it so badly. Definitely plan to make it a more regular occurrence.

    I’m so glad you had that week of calm and reflection, Pari. And terrific pics, too! Just looking at the last one of the ocean is almost enough to transport me… Hope you can re-capture it at will for a long time to come.

  25. Alafair Burke

    Ah, this post really made me miss Seattle. Thanks! I like to unplug if possible on vacation and prefer to have some energizer bunny time early in the day and then take it easy late in the day until dinner.

  26. pari noskin taichert

    You crack me up. Relaxing? I have to say I thought about you and wondered what you’d do if you just slowed down like we did.

    Thank you so much. I keep capturing that feeling for moments . . . I hope I can nurture them into something larger.

    I hope it brought back good memories. We just loved it there.

    Um, yeah. Sounds magnificent.

    Have a great time. I know you will.

  27. T. L. Cooper

    This is an awesome reminder of the power of nature, good company, and disconnecting from technology. I’ll try to remember this during our drive to Kentucky when I’m stressing about my limited computer access.

  28. pari noskin taichert

    NEVER sweat being away from a computer <g>! Seriously, have a wonderful vacation.

    Yes! I love lizards, just love ’em. My childhood was spent chasing blue tails and horny toads here in NM. I still have that kid-like joy every time I spot one in the wild.
    And our family has a leopard gecko. He’s a great creature, a pleasure to watch.


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