Monday, October 06, 2014

Trying to Relax

I had a wonderfully relaxing weekend, in which I learned that I've apparently forgotten how to relax. I don't know how long it's been since I just sat and read a book without being on an airplane or in the central jury room. It took me a while to settle into it without popping back up because I felt I should go do something. Back in my medical writing days, I did a piece on the need for vacations, and the psychiatrist said that it can take a day or more for the vacation to kick in so you can start to relax enough to get the real vacation effect. I definitely noticed that this weekend. But it must have worked at least a little bit because I started today actually wanting to get stuff done instead of dreading the week. I'm a bit groggy and starting later than normal because we had a wave of storms roll through overnight and my weather radio went off with storm warnings several times. I've learned that even with earplugs, I can hear the weather radio go off and understand what it says. Unfortunately, it takes a while to go back to sleep after you've been awakened like that. I think I just got a lot of rain. I only heard one clap of thunder, so I don't think we got the severe part of the storm.

As for the weekend, I took a rather epic walk on Friday. I lost count of mile markers, but I think I did at least five miles, when I consider the markers I did count and the fact that I had to turn around and come back. The new shoes worked, as I wasn't really all that sore afterward. It probably helped that I took frequent breaks, including one longer one. I did a sort of progressive picnic, stopping every so often to eat a course of the lunch I packed. Then when I got to the nice bench overlooking the river, I did some brainstorming work -- just enough to realize that I have a lot more work to do. This book isn't quite ready to be plotted fully.

Here's the view from my "office" that afternoon:

 That evening, the "cool weather turns me into Betty Crocker" effect kicked in. I'd bought a deli chicken dinner earlier in the week because I knew I wouldn't want to cook after jury duty, so I used the leftover gravy and chicken and added some vegetables to make pot pies. I've been making pastry most of my life, but this may have been the best pie crust I've ever made. It handled well and was perfectly flaky. It was probably because I was repurposing leftovers at home. If I'd been making a pie for a church social, it never would have come out this well. The pot pies were yummy enough that I'm going to have to try this again sometime.

Saturday morning, I got up and headed to the farmers' market in the adjoining town. That was kind of a bust, as the prices were much, much more expensive than at the grocery store, and they had everything grouped in baskets, so you not only had to buy the amount they put together, but you didn't get to choose your own. This is a pretty ritzy town, and I guess they know their market. It was very much the yuppie version of a farmers' market. So after a stroll through that, I headed to the community garden to get a map for the garden tour.

That turned out to be a lot of fun. These weren't "yard of the month" gardens with the suburban ideal of lush green lawns and some flowers and hedges. They were all low-maintenance and designed to use minimal water. I loved how casual these gardeners were. They had that "throw it out there, and if it grows, it grows" attitude, and they were so willing to share. They were letting people take cuttings and seed pods. At one place, when someone asked about the ground cover, the owner said, "Here, I'll dig some up for you." At another place, the owner had bowls of seeds and envelopes so you could take some.

My favorite was the Texas-friendly English cottage garden. It was like a fairyland (and when I told the owner that, he considered it a great compliment). He didn't have a blade of grass and said he doesn't own a lawnmower. It's all flowers and other plants, so it looks just a touch wild, but not unkempt. I could have moved into his back yard. It was like an outdoor living room. I now know what I want to do with my back yard when I get a real house. The patio had an arbor over it, with a porch swing and fireplace, and ceiling fans overhead. Doesn't this look like a lovely place to spend the day?

And then the rest of the yard was little paths winding around clumps of flowers. There was a gazebo in the back corner. It really did remind me of English gardens, where as you follow the little winding paths, new vistas open up and you feel like you're discovering secret treasures. It sounded like the kind of thing that's a lot of work to establish, but once you get it started, it's not that much work to maintain. I haven't really thought of myself as a "gardener," and I have zero interest in lawn work like mowing, but I realized how much these places called to my soul, and then I thought about how much pleasure I get in going out and tending to my few patio plants. I guess if I could have a "garden" instead of a "lawn," I'd enjoy it a lot. Of course, if I had a back yard like that, I really wouldn't want to leave the house and might become even more of a hermit.

The weird thing was doing all this activity before noon, and that's where the "wow, I've forgotten how to relax" thing kicked in. I spent a lot of time on the patio, reading, but kept popping up to do things and felt restless. It wasn't until Sunday that I felt really relaxed. Then the cooking urge continued, and I just had to test my new pie crust prowess by making apple turnovers. The pastry, yet again, came out perfect. I will have to make these again.

Now it's back to work time. My kitchen is a disaster after all that cooking, and I need to get serious about plotting this book.

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