Many ministers start their sabbaticals with a vacation, or some travel, just to make a break with the compulsive workload and responsibilities of clergy life. Last sabbatical, I traveled to Romania and, later in the fall, to Great Britain with Eric and Marjorie.
Seth(6) has this entire week off from first grade – “Fall Break”—and Casey (29) is still only partially employed, so my inner travel-nazi wants to GO somewhere! I haven’t traveled anywhere with my eldest for over a decade, and I think we both have preserved memories of camping and hiking trips and cross-country journeys from the years before the complexities of divorce, addiction, and economics put an end to any thing remotely like a family getaway.
But a survey of the bank accounts tells me that even a foray into Tennessee, to see fall in the Smokies, or to Cincinnati, where Seth loves the art museum, are not feasible right now. We’ll stay in Washington County. The elements seem to approve of this decision, because each day is more glorious than the last, weather-wise. The colors are more vibrant at Innisfree, our farm, than they have been in the five years we’ve owned it, and the skies are brilliantly clear, the air warm and dry.
After all, what would you wish for on a vacation? Watching the sun rise and set, good food and wine, art and culture, lots of rest, something great to read, companionship, pampering, and maybe some intellectual stimulation…. Almost all of these can be had right at home, or close to home, with a bit of creativity.
I know I am blessed to have this place to live, where it is so peaceful and so far removed from any of the stresses of the city, but I have also noticed that despite having invited dozens of people to visit, both family and friends from far away and colleagues and acquaintances from Kentucky, only a few make the trek. It’s not far, either… 45 minutes’ drive from the start of the Bluegrass Parkway on Versailles Road! I know there were any number of times when I was exhausted beyond belief, but couldn’t bring myself to make the drive out here, even though I knew how much I’d appreciate it once here.
What I am saying is that, often, peace and serenity are very close at hand, but we do not avail ourselves of them. And, I please guilty to this!
So, this first week of sabbatical, I really did take a sabbath in the traditional sense. I refrained from driving, spending money, and from most sources of electronic media.
I noticed that each day, the sunrise happens in a unique way -- sometimes a gentle rosy glow gives way to a brilliant yellow ball that breaks the horizon; sometimes a startlingly red sky announces a hazy brightening. Each day, nature provides an art display. The hues of changing leaves, the clouds that shift from wispy strokes to puffy wads, the dew that glistens on the ripening pumpkin. Who needs the art museum? Wildlife? We spot coyotes, possums, foxes, deer and wild turkey. My husband brings a tiny green tree frog to show us, and my son brings home a snake that he found on the road.
My hammock, a quarter mile from the house, in a breezy hollow under a huge oak tree, and my Adirondack chair, from which I can survey the activities of swooping birds of prey, are as relaxing as any beach chaise. The wine I stopped and bought at a local winery is dry and satisfying. There is work if I want to work, and rest when I need to rest. I have enough reading to last a decade.
My youngest and I make a scarecrow and decorate the porch for Halloween. My oldest son helps me cook, and I discover that the Hubbard squash we've grown makes great "pumpkin" pies, and the local vegetables make a superb ratatouille. The local Amish market yields the world's best homemade "Long-johns," sumptuous cream-filled confections coated with maple icing. On Saturday, we all three go to Gravel Switch, to see the outhouse races at Penn's Store, an event I have wondered about for the twelve years I have been in Kentucky. It's our most expensive outing of the week; we spend ten dollars on admission and another fifteen on bar-b-que, ribs, and funnel cake. Seth gets his picture taken with Turtle Man, a local hero of sorts who is due to appear on Animal Planet this fall.