It took three days into our family vacation and standing on a plank of wood eighty feet in the air, for me to relax.
First, let me explain: I don’t relax. Maybe I can’t or perhaps I just won’t. The idea of sitting by a pool or a beach reading a book makes me itchy. The Hubs told me that people need to get away to relax every now and then or else they’ll go crazy. That was his way of telling me I’d already gone over to Crazy-ville and was threatening to take him with me. He was getting out of town one way or another.
So, with the Kid and Beast in tow, we made our way to the Poconos in Western Pennsylvania—home of winter skiing, candle-making, and champagne bathtubs. The air was fresh, the nights were cool, and I was tapping my toes wondering when we were going to do something. (Dozens of text messages from my BFF in California read, “Just breathe.”) Only after some serious protesting on my part—“We didn’t drive two hours from home just to watch the Giants’ pre-season game on television!”—we made our way to the nearby Mountain Coaster—a single-rider coaster that goes down the ski mountain. I should also explain that the Hubs doesn’t particularly like coasters—be they of the roller or mountain variety. He was, as they say, a trooper. The Kid and I, on the other hand, reveled in the downhill coast. Revving up my adrenaline calms me down.
Yet the coaster was only a temporary salve. A few more phone calls to the BFF in Cali and some Netflix episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation helped me to still. The Beast, who’d had a rough first night, was starting to settle in as well. Better than any of us, in fact. With temps at least fifteen degrees cooler, new smells to inspect, more acres of grass to roll in, and new places to mark, he took to his new surrounding as if he hadn’t spent his formative years in a major metropolis.
On our third morning, coming through the hotel parking lot after a long walk, we were startled by a noise off to the side. There in the woods stood three deer—less than ten feet away. The leader, “head doe,” locked onto Finn. Her eyes grew wide as if to say, “That’s a big dog.” I stopped, wrapped the leashed around both hands, and stood firm. I’d seen enough of “America’s Funniest Videos” to know that deer could attack. I dared not go closer, though the Beast, who was both curious and protective, wagged his tail wagged and lunged forward. The deer ran off, though it took all my strength to make sure the Beast stayed by my side. He was positively gleeful after the encounter and kept his eyes to the trees for the remainder of our trip.
The next day was when I found myself eighty feet in the air, secured by a harness and two climbing clips, at a bona fide treetop adventure course—complete with climbing walls, swinging ropes, mid-air obstacles, and ziplines. I don’t want to be dramatic and say I found my calling, but all that climbing on the playground as a kid finally paid off! And, as I get older, high places get more and more unnerving–even the eight steps leading down to my back patio make me tremble a little. And yet, I zipped around with the greatest of ease as if I’d been born in the trees. Maybe it was my trust in my safety equipment, maybe it was the adrenaline rush of darting between trees on a high wire, or maybe it was the two holy basil supplements I’d popped a half-hour before I started my journey—whatever it was, I was having the time of my life.
The Hubs, again, a trooper, made it through two of the three courses. He trusts gravity implicitly and, therefore, makes it a point to stay as close to the ground at all times. The Kid, in a maneuver straight out of Die Hard, skinned his fingers on a swinging rope and had to bow out of the last course. Eighty feet up, feeling trees swaying in the breeze, I was alone with my thoughts, which isn’t always a good thing. Yet at that moment, I realized I had been so attached at the hip to New York City and my smartphone that I had completely forgotten that nature existed. That I’d spent the past five months in a near-constant state of worry over my dog’s health. That I’d forgotten how to enjoy things—if I ever knew. That I’d gone, as the Hubs warned, a little crazy. For that moment, I was secure, not just in my equipment, but in the knowledge that all was right with me: The Beast was resting comfortably back at the hotel, the Hubs and Kid would meet up with me after my descent and we’d all chat about, and a vacation was a good idea after all. The Hubs was, once again, right.*
*But we don’t have to tell him that, do we?
**WCD? bonus: The Kid finally let me get some family shots of us. Which, if you’ve ever studied teenagers, is pretty miraculous.