I rise early, even on holidays. With a fresh cup of coffee in one hand and my prayer book in the other, I sneak outside barefoot, with a blanket if needed. I say hello to the birds who greet me with their morning serenade. I bow to the apple tree swelling with life in the little green balls on its branches. With a smile I nod to the parsley, mint and basil, delighting in their fresh new growth. The beans and cukes remind me of their thirst for more moisture. But the flowers — lilies, lupines, dahlias, marigolds, black-eyed susans and poppies — don’t seem to mind the scarcity of water as they throw me their morning beauty. The radiant canopy of the summer morning sky welcomes and enfolds me. My spirit opens wide to receive creation’s offering in this holy opening rite of a virgin day … in my own backyard.
I have lost the travel bug. Not that I miss it much — I have done my fair share of traveling in past years. Maybe it’s the aging season, but there’s something irresistible about home these days as my number one holiday destination. Sleeping in my own bed, dressing when I feel like it, resting in my own space, sipping ice tea in my backyard, watching the garden grow and helping it along with watering and weeding; just puttering around and breathing in my familiar surroundings is an elixir of peace and rejuvenation I can’t find anywhere else. Living out of a suitcase, meeting travel deadlines, dealing with car trouble or detours on the road (or flight delays), eating commercial food, sleeping in strange and sometimes uncomfortable beds — I don’t miss any of it.
Grant you, I know that’s not all there is to traveling. There is the excitement of new encounters in people and places, the change that is as good as a rest (although I need to rest after almost every trip), and the rich soul-food served up by the beauty and splendor of the natural world, especially when enjoying the luxury of camping or a cabin at the lake, hiking in the mountains or letting the northern wilderness of our vast country overtake our heart. But maybe there is a season for each type of holiday, and I am certainly into the stay-cation type at this time in my life.
Now this stay-cation spa is made possible by a number of factors of course. There are at least five that come to mind.
No more young children at home who need daily care contributes significantly to making my home a sanctuary. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoy the grandchildren when they stay with us. But I breathe deeply again when the house falls silent after their departure. Moreover, my depleted energy reservoir is a sober reminder that my active parenting season has long past. Love those little charmers to pieces, but my, they exhaust me!
Another, equally important factor, is the fact that my family home is a modest but safe and comfortable place, a luxury not enough people can claim anymore in this unsafe world. The stability and safety in the relational climate of love and appreciation with my husband contribute in no small measure to the sacredness of home. If I was living in constant relational strain and even in danger of abuse and neglect in intimate encounters I would not only be stressed out and insecure, but I would want to flee to the rest and safety that a holiday away could provide.
Third, when it comes to “breathing in the clean air of God’s abundant creation” as a necessary form of refueling, I only have to go into my backyard. Our house is located in a quiet neighbourhood on the edge of town. The trees across the back alley (not to mention our backyard neighbour’s glorious garden!) and the farmer’s field less than a block away are daily sources of joy and contemplation, play and rest. With a keen gardener for a husband, the space behind our house is growing all kinds of plants that nourish in more ways than only the bodily kind. How would I feel about a stay-cation if I lived in an apartment along a busy city street? How would I feel in a hospital bed or if I lived in a small room of a seniors’ care home, a sure possibility in the future? My soul would crave the green and the earth and the fresh air, essentials of life that would only be available by going away.
Fourth, I don’t need to “get away” from work in order to rest and re-energize. In fact, my pastoral ministry work seems to function like an artesian well of life and blessing and joy that never runs dry. I know well the danger of overworking and overextending oneself, but that is not what I am experiencing at the moment. While I have learnt to bathe my spirit in be-ing over doing, to welcome unscheduled days and open calendars, I am fortunate to engage in work that is meaningful and fruitful, joy-filled and energizing. Again, sad to say, but even this is a luxury. Many (most?) people find themselves in less than satisfying jobs with little prospects of further learning and growing and advancing themselves. That in itself drains rather than generates energy. Holidays away then become the much needed fueling station in order to supply the refreshment and energy that work fails to deliver.
The final factor which makes a stay-cation more attractive than a holiday away is of a rather different nature than the previous ones. I confess my mixed feelings about this, but I am living into a limiting physical ability (whoever said the “joys of aging”?!) which shows up in varying and sobering ways. It’s just plain easier to keep the sleep apnea machine set up at my own bedside, to nap on my own couch when the day is too strenuous and to deal with my creaking knees in familiar surroundings. It is a humbling experience to live into physical limitations with some grace and humour.
Writing this reflection followed an intriguing trajectory. At first I could only think of two factors that make a stay-cation desirable. The more I delved into this reflection, however, the more factors revealed themselves. The process of intentional reflecting bears fruit every time; who was it again who said “the unexamined life is not worth living“?
A healthy and re-energizing stay-cation indeed comes with a price-tag, one that should not be taken for granted. Resentfully staying home as the only option is not a stay-cation. In fact, stay-cations, while easy on the pocket-book, might be more costly in other ways if they are to provide the refreshment of mind and spirit we all need. They can only be rejuvenating holidays with the luxuries of privacy, stable and safe relational space, ready access to nature’s energy source, and life-giving work, while the sobering aging process adds a practical allure to staying home.
So I am counting abundant blessings in choosing a stay-cation, enjoying it immensely with thanks to God for so much goodness. Let these blessings never become a source of entitlement, pride or arrogance, O God. Rather, let me grow ever more mindful and compassionate towards those who deserve equal measures of these essential nutrients for the human spirit but are prevented from accessing these through no fault of their own. I pray that more and more people can say:
“Home, the spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.”
~ Robert Montgomery
“Stay, stay at home, my heart, and rest;
Home-keeping hearts are happiest.”
~ Henry W. Longfellow
Would you choose a stay-cation? Why or why not?
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