Last summer, my husband, teenage son, and I went on our first ever vacation. Eager to hear the sound of the ocean waves crashing to the shore all day and night, I reserved a campsite at a National Seashore where I’d stayed one night 20 years prior. To make a long story short, camping didn’t go according to plan due to the intense bug situation. We ended up fleeing our campsite at 2 a.m. our first night there in search of a hotel, where we spent the remaining two nights of our trip. However, the sight and sound of the ocean waves during the daytime and the feeling of my toes in the warm sand were delightful.
We decided that a yearly beach vacation would be a good idea, and in early spring I started making less rustic arrangements for a vacation to Southern Maine. I secured a cottage with a $500 deposit.
So many friends raved about their Maine vacations, and we were looking forward to ours. However, about a month before we were scheduled to leave, we began to have cold feet. My husband had planted a number of gardens this year, and tending them had become more of an undertaking (labor of love) than we’d anticipated. We both had become attached to the flowers and vegetables that were coming up – some of which we started from seed. We didn’t want to leave them.
We started having conversations about canceling our vacation plans. The bottom line was that we didn’t feel the need – or any desire for that matter – to get away from our little home on the river. The timing didn’t feel right. But we’d already put down a deposit, so we tried to convince ourselves that a beach vacation would do us good.
A week before our vacation was to begin, we noticed the ominous presence of a woodchuck lurking in our yard. We also regretted that so many cherry tomatoes were ripening and that we would miss out on hundreds of them while we were away.
We arranged for some family and friends to tend to our garden by harvesting anything that became ready in our absence. Then we spotted one full-size tomato that was beginning to blush, and that stopped us right in our tracks. Each time we went in or out the door, there was that one tomato staring at us, weighing on our mind.
And of course, there was still the grave matter of the woodchuck who surely would take advantage of the opportunity presented by a yard left uninhabited for a week. We understood the likelihood that we would find our gardens destroyed upon our return.
All of a sudden, it didn’t make sense to go away and leave behind the gardens to which we had given so much care and attention. We could not be at peace with the prospect of losing all the eggplant, peppers, broccoli, and about 1,000 tomatoes. The $500 deposit was paid months ago and seemed trivial in comparison to what we would lose if we went away for a week.
Furthermore, we recognized this whole situation as a wonderful metaphor for other areas of our life. Interpretation: Do not abandon what you have worked so hard on when things are beginning to ripen! Be vigilant about protecting it from threats – whether they be external threats or internal ones, such as the thoughts we think and the words we say to ourselves and others.
We ended up canceling our trip and forfeiting the deposit. And wouldn’t you know: On the first afternoon of what would have been our vacation, that lone tomato was fully red and ready to pick. I photographed my husband holding this freshly harvested leader of the pack in his hand, and the expression on his face was priceless.
We felt so grateful to be there to harvest that first tomato ourselves. Being away would have been like missing a son or daughter taking his or her first step.
If it took $500 to realize there is no place like home and that we already are steeped in happiness here and now, then so be it. The abundance of gratitude in our hearts is worth so much more.
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