All of you who know me IRL (and, by now, probably most of you who know me only through the blog) know that flexibility and rolling with the punches are not exactly my strong suit. I really prefer a life where things are planned and scheduled. I like to know what will happen and when it will happen. Uncertainty causes me great anxiety. When things don’t go as I expect, I can go off the rails pretty easily. I can think of numerous times in my life when plans went awry and I was left, gob smacked and paralyzed because I couldn’t figure out what to do next.
On my recent trip to New England, life wasn’t playing by my rules. In fact, it might have been the most troublesome trip of my life.
We were delayed for 4 and a half hours trying to get out of the Orlando airport. There were three different mechanical issues that delayed us… each discovered right after the previous one was resolved. Not only did our plane experience multiple problems, those problems could not even have the goodness to happen concurrently. We “almost” left about four times before we actually did make it off the ground. We loaded and unloaded the plane multiple times.
When we finally got the second (or was it third?) safety check, apparently poised to actually get the airplane into the air, there was a further problem. One of the disgruntled passengers was on the phone to the airline headquarters, negotiating at the top of his lungs to get a travel voucher for his trouble. He refused to stop yelling long enough to listen to the safety instructions or hang up his cell phone for take-off. The rest of us were ready to pounce on him. If he had not finally shut up and apologized to the flight attendant, I think we would have had to go back to the gate AGAIN to have him removed from the flight. Had that occurred, I doubt he would have made it to the parking lot without serious injury.
By the time we got to Boston, I had put aside this sketchy beginning to our trip. I was ready to have a good time.
Unfortunately, the travel gremlins did not get that particular memo.
During our sojourn, I tripped over a step in Bar Harbor breakfast room (take note, all you who objected when I said I am an exceedingly clutzy individual.) I remained upright, but a bottle of milk on the buffet table did not. I managed to spill the entire serving carafe of milk on the (carpeted) floor. The food on my plate went flying across the room, with considerable less delay than our plane from Orlando. The bus we originally boarded in Boston did not have a working microphone system, so the poor tour director had to wend her way down the aisle repeating her spiel every few seats until we got a new bus a few days later. We were two hours late getting to New Hampshire because of traffic related to a small-town fair that is apparently attended by the entire population of Maine. Our bus driver nearly missed a stoplight in Massachusetts and slammed on the brakes, sending people and water bottles tobogganing down the aisle of the vehicle. In one hotel, a fire alarm went off at 4:15am, requiring us to evacuate and stand around in the cold in our jammies for an hour. We arrived back in Boston to the city’s first ever hotel strike and the resultant picketing and catcalling. Finally, on the last morning of our trip, as we were packing to leave, the fire alarm squawked. It was a sign from God to go to the airport, even though it was a couple of hours before we intended to leave.
Yes, this certainly qualifies as a candidate for the most troublesome trip ever.
It might also have been the most wonderful trip ever.
How could this be? Simply put, I fell in love with New England. And maybe, just maybe, I am learning that a beautiful gift packaged in bedraggled gift wrap is still a beautiful gift. And New England was a mind-expanding, life-enhancing, oh-so-beautiful gift. Everything bad that happened was just the bedraggled gift wrap. I rose above it. I chose to live in loveliness and lovingliness.
I loved the fall foliage bursting with color and warmth and magic. I remember my mother once saying “when you see one tree, you’ve seen them all,” when I asked her how she enjoyed one of the tours she and my father took. For me, it was more like- “if I see one tree, I want to see them all.” I rode, hour after hour, drinking in the landscape as I stared, mesmerized, out the window. I didn’t even blink very often, for fear of missing even a slight smidgeon of miracle. I developed a sort of involuntary gurgling noise that became Max’s “exceptionally beautiful fall foliage early warning alarm.” Whenever he heard me emit my gurgle, he knew to turn to see what was delighting me.
I loved the rocky coastline of Maine- wild, free, and powerful. I loved the food- the lobster and the popovers and the gingerbread and the cheese and the apple cider donuts. I loved the ever-present autumn decorations- pumpkins and mums and cornstalks. I loved the beautiful paths to nowhere- except more beauty- that swirled around the rivers and meadows and forests.
I also loved the serendipity. I loved the way the air smelled and tasted. I loved the quiet, dignified sunrise over Bar Harbor. I loved that Max tried to ring the church bell in New Hampshire by swinging on the rope. I loved meeting a “local” artist who, before living in New Hampshire for about 10 years, had lived about a mile from where Max and I lived in California. He had been the illustrator for the California newspaper that both of us had read most of our lives. I loved the whimsical statues of bears and moose we saw at nearly every stop. I loved the soothing jacuzzi in the ski lodge in Vermont. I loved meeting the little welsh corgi “saleslady” in a souvenir shop in Newport.
Yes, it was a wonderful trip and I am still smitten by New England. I know I will likely never move there. I don’t really want to rebuild my life again. As Max kept reminding me, within a couple of months, the many colors I so fancied in the fall forests will be replaced by one color- white, white, and more white. While I think I could do better with cold than with the Florida summer heat, I don’t have any experience with managing snow and ice. I know I get antsy if I have to go more than a day or two without getting out of the house here in Florida. Winter in New England might give me terminal cabin fever. I have a great life in Florida. I am sure my life is easier than it would be in New England. I have an active life, with plenty of fun things to do. I have wonderful friends who I don’t want to leave.
Still, when the time comes for God to bring me Home, I hope we make a brief detour for a few decades in New England. In the scheme of eternity, it wouldn’t be much of a delay and I think my soul was meant to have a New England life.
I have to apologize for the pictures. I wanted to share some, but they don’t do justice to nature’s beauty. Also, I can’t figure out how to get them to line up the way I want them to, so you might have to tilt your head a bit! Please don’t throw your neck out!
What is the most beautiful place you have ever been? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a beautiful day!!!! 🙂