Traveling with Tab

I once went camping in Europe and the people setting up the tent next to me pulled out of their van, I swear to God, a TV, a wooden fixed-leg table with matching upholstered chairs, an electric stove and oven combo, a rotating fan, and a futon.

Seriously? What’s the point of tent camping if you’re going to bring your whole house with you? I think we as a species have gotten very soft.

I am imagining rich people from the Elizabethan era packing all the comforts of home in gigantic trunks and piling them onto the roof of their coaches as they flitted from one mansion to the next.

Nowadays that’s all of us (except for the part about the mansions).

Don’t agree with me? Come on. Who among us hasn’t seen someone go into a full-blown panic if he or she doesn’t have access to a smart phone? Lest we forget, for the better part of human history, those things weren’t a necessity.

Years ago I was traveling overseas with someone who had never been out of the country before. He insisted he was going to bring eight 6-packs of Tab with him, because that was all he would drink. It took a lot to convince him that the hassle of lugging all that soda from pillar to post would not be worth the thirst it might quench. I finally got him to see reason, but he did insist on eating at McDonalds in foreign countries for as long as I knew him. I was appalled.

We all have our gadgets and tchotchkes. We love our satin neck pillows and our squatty potties and our hair straighteners and all manner of technology. We insist upon different shoes for every occasion and Little Mermaid DVDs to appease our children. We are awash in lotions and unguents and supplements and sprays. We pack 14 shirts for a 3 day trip, because you just never know.

We no longer know how to rough it. We want what we want when we want it. Is it any wonder that airlines now charge a premium if you exceed your luggage weight limit? Otherwise some of us would want to bring our favorite recliners.

I urge you to experience the joy of traveling light. If there’s something you require in a foreign country and you can’t obtain it there, you might ask yourself how an entire country has managed to survive without that thing. And the pursuit of that item might even be one of your more memorable travel experiences. Anything that makes you actually interact with the natives can only enrich your trip.

Remember, people survived for centuries without a hair straightener. It’s a nice luxury, but it’s still a luxury.

luggage

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A Celebration of Light

One of the things I’ll never get used to here in the Pacific Northwest is that there is nearly 8 hours less sunlight per day in the winter than there is in the summer. In Florida, the difference is only 4 hours. But that means that people here really appreciate the daylight when they have it. It can’t be taken for granted. There is a definite morale change from summer to winter, and with it comes a lifestyle change. People seem to hibernate here in the wintertime.

Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that Vancouver, Canada, our neighbor to the north, has a three day celebration of light each summer. The funny thing is, this celebration takes place at night. That’s because it is a fireworks competition.

Each year, three countries are chosen to put on a fireworks display over English Bay on three separate evenings. These displays are set to music, and they’re judged. They’re always spectacular. The event comes with food trucks, too, and usually draws about 400,000 people per night.

This year, India, Canada, and Croatia competed. Canada, the home team so to speak, won. Croatia won the people’s choice award. (Click on the country names to see full Youtube videos of the events. They’re incredible.)

I was lucky enough to experience Canada’s effort, and I must say that it was, without a doubt, the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my life. I saw at least 5 types of fireworks that I’d never seen bfore. They were wonderfully creative, surprising, and delightful.

If you’re ever in the Vancouver area in late July, early August, don’t miss the Celebration of Light. But please don’t bring your dog. If I lived in Vancouver, I’d probably take my dogs and leave town during this event. War veterans might want to give it a pass, too.

But everyone else… wow. Just wow. Three cheers for light!

Celebration of Light 2019

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Migraine Awareness

June is Migraine Awareness Month. As a lifelong sufferer myself, I know what it’s like to deal with people’s many misconceptions about this malady. The lack of understanding and the crazy ideas about migraines can be nearly as painful as the headache.

The first, most frustrating fallacy about migraines is that “It’s all in your head.” If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me, I’d be a millionaire right now. Just because a migraine can’t be seen does not mean it doesn’t exist. Why would anyone make up this level of agony?

Here’s a description that my cousin posted on her Facebook page today:

What is it like having a migraine? You lay down to sleep because sleep is the only real thing that is pain free. Only, you can’t sleep. Noise is making the pain worse. Every position you lay in is excruciating. With a pillow. Without a pillow. Side, back, face jammed into the mattress. Doesn’t matter. The throbbing won’t stop. Too hot. Too cold. Shut up, gecko! Don’t you know I’m dying here and your seemingly adorable chirp is like a shrill screwdriver scraping down a blackboard?! Shoulders are so tight from the stress of the pain. Jaw is so tight from grinding my teeth in pain. Every time I close my eyes I think the aura might go away but it’s still there. Twinkling away. Just one spot though. Enough to be annoying. 6am. Still awake. 8am still awake. I just want some rest. 9am finally found a comfortable way to lay however I have ruined my entire day. Migraine, you are not the life partner I imagined. I’ve broken up with you so many times. I just don’t want to see you ever again. We’re through! Sleep. So lovely and pain free. Only to awake and feel migraine waiting for me. I hate you. Don’t you know that you ruin my relationship with others? I wish you’d never come back. You make my life hell.

Clearly this is not a figment of her imagination. Nor are all the pictures of me from childhood with dark circles under my eyes from days of vomiting and lack of sleep a mere mirage. Unlike my cousin, I don’t have the sensitivity to sound, and for that I thank God. But my sensitivity to light means that even the smallest amount of illumination feels like a dagger in my eyeball. When I was too little to have the vocabulary to describe it, I used to say I had a bullet in my eye. We called them “eye aches” back then.

Another mistaken belief about migraines is the implication that since it is “all in your head” it must be some form of mental illness. Yes, people do think that. Don’t believe me? Rent the movie “Dark Water” sometime. At the very least people assume that you “do this” to get attention. That always makes me laugh, because when you have a migraine, the very last thing you want is attention. You want to be left alone in a dark, quiet room. If anything, it takes you away from the people you love, and you miss out on a lot.

I’ve also been accused of conjuring up a migraine to get out of work or to avoid eating certain foods that I “must not like.” Like what? Chocolate? Oh yeah. I hate chocolate. Not. I’d kill to be able to eat chocolate without the accompanying pain.

If you don’t get migraines you are very fortunate. A great thing to do with that good fortune would be to have a little tolerance and compassion for those of us who do suffer. Or, at the very least, you could keep your erroneous beliefs to yourself.

[Image credit: migraine.com]
[Image credit: migraine.com]
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Contemplating Trees

Today is Arbor Day. I bet a distressingly small number of people are even aware of that. It is a day to plant trees and appreciate those trees that already exist. Today I’m thinking about the forest and our relationship to it.

Many rears ago, I used to vacation in Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. I’d rent a cabin for two weeks, take my dogs and a whole bunch of books and groceries, and just go. I wouldn’t see another human being the entire time. I’d have no telephone and no television, and this was before the internet, so being on line wasn’t even a concern. I’d sit on the porch and read. I’d take a nap. I’d cook something and eat. But mostly what I’d do is watch the wind in the trees. Pure heaven.

My coworkers thought I was crazy. “Weren’t you scared?” they would say. But to be honest I wasn’t the least bit nervous. Not even for a second. Not even at night. It’s humans that are scary, if you ask me. No tree has ever done me harm. And there were no humans for miles. If a serial killer were persistent enough to find me, let alone kill me, then he would deserve to succeed after all that work. No, I am much more fearful in the big city than I am in the deep forest.

But forests show up in our myths and scary movies for a reason. When you are surrounded by pure nature, as far as the eye can see, you sense life. It’s easy to feel paranoid. Normally we place walls between ourselves and this type of life, so when you make the effort to surround yourself by a thick blanket of it, just you and nature, it can be overpowering.

I don’t look at forests that way. I don’t view them as malevolent. I feel the celebration of life. I see the beauty of creation. I feel embraced and at peace. I feel like I’ve come home.

forest

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

As an extra treat, I give you this link. It’s a radio interview with David George Haskell, a biologist who spent a year studying just one square meter of old growth forest in Tennessee. He’d go there every single day and just observe. And he has some profound things to say about what he learned. “We find wonder in the world by giving the world our attention, not by running around the world to find the most wonderful place, but to look at our homes, look at the places where we are in a new light, and that light is the light of our focus and concentration. And by doing that, whether it’s in a square meter of forest or a particular trail through an urban neighborhood, or a tree in a park, as we focus in, we see more and more, and the riches unfold in front of us.” It’s a fascinating interview. Check it out.

Happy Arbor Day. Hug a tree, people!