After a blissful week disconnected from work and the general responsibilities of being an adult, I begrudgingly made it back to the real world yesterday, settling into my desk around 8, hoping to get a head start before the rest of the office made it in. As people saw I was on GChat again, and the office slowly filled up, I was asked every which way by every single person “How was your vacation!?” I think people expect to hear one of a few stereotypical responses to that question, like “Great!” and “Very relaxing!” and “Too short!,” but my take on our jaunt up north for four days last week was a little different. The best answer I could come up with for every “How was Maine??” thrown my way today was “Full.”
Let’s start with the obvious: aside from that time my lovely friend M and I plowed through a meal intended for 6 people while spending Thanksgiving in Amsterdam, I have never eaten so much in my life. Having also grown up in a beach town, I was prepared for lots of seafood, maybe accompanied by vegetables or maybe just next to more seafood and crinkle-cut fries, but we took eating to the next level in our mere 96 hours. None of us had any intention of turning down plates because they “weren’t healthy” or we “weren’t hungry,” so we encouraged each other’s bad decisions and ate our way up and down the coast: pizza and duck fat poutine in Portland, chowder and fried clams in Portsmouth, pancakes and french toast and bacon for breakfast on two consecutive days, a full lobster bake, and an interesting experiment with butter sandwiches (yup) after either the third gin cocktail or fourth bottle of wine on the cold Friday night. Everything had a drink with it, mimosas with breakfast, cocktails after lunch, wine after dinner; yet despite food comas by all and not enough water by normal standards, none of us felt any less than refreshed in the mornings, pain washed away by the sea air and a steady feeling of relaxed calm I’ve never felt in the city.
The weekend itself was filled with activities, though nothing that had a time frame or even too many boundaries. Time at the beach melted into time shopping in Portland, into time at the outlets, spending money we don’t have on things we absolutely need. We spent as much time as possible on the beach each day, digging toes into the cold sand on Thursday morning, bathed in sunshine till the rain moved in, tossing bocce balls and tossing back drinks all day on Friday, climbing rocks on Saturday to find a secret spot for just the four of us and taking pictures of everything on Sunday. Nights were spent curled up in sweatpants with an unlimited supply of red wine and an ever-present game of Cards of Humanity, graciously gifted by my partner-and-crime R and her Scot H for the weekend after they had to cancel coming last minute. M’s mother kicked all our asses one night as she laughed uproariously at everything and asked us repeatedly not to judge her for all the best answers. It hit me at one point on Thursday night, after the first of the four perfect days, that I hadn’t laughed like that in months.
My lovely friend M told us that she can feel a shift in perspective the moment she crosses the state line into Maine, like the city hustle and everything alongside it melt away once you’re within state lines. Given this was only my second time to Maine ever, I didn’t quite have that feeling when we passed the “Welcome to Maine!” sign, but I sure felt something over the next few days. I felt it waking up the first morning, after the best night of sleep I’d had in months, to the gentle waves of the ocean undulating in and out of earshot, just faint enough that the whole world felt silent, and just loud enough to call us to the sand. And again, sitting in a car with my best friends, singing along to all the bad 90’s music, the perfect autumn colors flying past us on the still-full trees. And then again on the last night in Cocktail Cove, an aptly named secluded/secret mini-beach, where we sat on jagged rocks with beers in plastic cups, watching the sun languidly lower into the horizon, the colors changing from soft pinks and yellows, to bright blues, to pale greens, to black.
It wasn’t an epiphanic moment of clarity, that last night, but more like an easy calm setting in as I looked around at the beautiful sunset and the people around me. It’s corny, and cliched, but there’s something about staring into a clear sunset, into an ocean horizon, that reminds you how small these moments are in the grand scheme of life and things. It reminded me how small the little insecurities I’ve been carrying around like a bomb for months are, nothing more than Post-Its slowly losing their sticky before falling to be forgotten and trampled by rain-soaked feet. And it reminded me that it doesn’t take an army to have a good time, doesn’t require a big fanfare of drinks and shots and boys and bad decisions. Right then, I just needed a few days on the beach, listening to the sea breeze, digging my feet into the rocky, cold sand, with nothing on my mind but how beautiful everything was around me, and how my life was, and is, so very full.