Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Summer Vacation ...

Hello, everyone!

It's hard to believe that half the year has passed already and that, after a busy month of workshops, the summer stretches before me like a warm invitation.

On Tuesday morning, I'll board a plane to Toronto and then drive a couple of hours to a cottage on Kahshe Lake for a two week visit with dear friends. The cottage is my "safe place" - you know, the one you're asked to picture at stress reduction workshops? (All I have to do is imagine the scent of the sun-warmed pines surrounding the deck and I'm flooded with a full-on relaxation response.) I can hardly wait to settle into my deck chair with a mug of tea and a great book.

I probably won't read much of the book during the first week but just having it on my lap will help to hold space for gazing at the water and allowing the busyness of the spring to fall away. I'll bask in the warmth of the sun as I watch the eaglets in the tall tree across the bay and, as I watch, I'll feel the muscles of my neck and shoulders ease into a softness they haven't felt since this time last summer.

I am enormously grateful to have friends who are willing to share this little piece of paradise with me. But what about those of you who are unable to go on vacation this summer - those caring for ill or frail loved ones, beginning new jobs that won't accrue vacation time until next year, and those so burnt out or compassion fatigued that the mere thought of arranging a vacation is overwhelming? How can you take a refreshing break this summer?

I learned one woman's answer to this question while browsing through Living Artfully a lovely book by art therapist, Sandra Magsamen. Perhaps her answer, or some reasonable facsimile, might work for you ...

... after I read Under the Tuscan Sun - a captivating book about an American woman's soulful, life-changing adventure moving into and refurbishing an aging villa in Tuscany, Italy - I wanted so badly to pick up and travel to the Italian countryside to experience all that I had read, but that wasn't possible. So I reactivated my make-believe skills and, for an entire summer, acted "as if" I were a fresh transplant in my home away from home - Italia! My physical body was living responsibly in Maryland, but my mind and heart were otherwise happily Italian.
Over the course of several months, I learned to make all sorts of pastas and bruschettas, and immersed myself in the historical "stories" behind the recipes when I could find them. I discovered (and drank a few glasses of) Italian wines - the point was having fun, no? - while the aroma of roasting garlic and simmering tomato-basil sauce wafted beyond my home and into the surrounding neighbourhood. 
I visited local vineyards to continue my Italian-style reverie. Friends and family asked me about my sudden interest in opera and Italian films, and enjoyed the adventure I provided in the many Italian meals I cooked and wines I served. My journey became their journey, too, and all of our lives were enriched. We weren't anywhere near Europe, but it was great fun just the same! 

So, why not take your imagination in hand and, even if you can't travel physically to the place of your dreams, enjoy an "as if" summer vacation in your mind and in your own neighbourhood. Eat the meals of your favourite country or region, read its literature, listen to its music and watch its films. Immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy the journey. Happy Summer!

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