I have been the absolute worst about following up since I have been home, and there is really no reason why, other than my work schedule has changed and adjusting is always hard for me. So please, accept my apologies, and enjoy these photos from the last leg of my trip to the East Coast!
So, we took our time on our way to Massachusetts- got lost on a few detours to find bathrooms, and ended up having the best time on the winding little roads past beautiful homes interspersed with amazing houses, and of course, the requisite cemeteries every few miles. I am endlessly fascinated with the graveyards on the East Coast, and could spend days just reading the headstones. I know that sounds morbid, but really it isn’t. I love the history and the artwork on the stones, and…well, I’ve always loved cemeteries. They are peaceful and beautiful, and the ones in Maine and Massachusetts are super cool.
From Maine to our place in Rockport, Massachusetts, was only about an hour and a half drive! For me, a born and bred Californian, this is mind-boggling. It takes hours and hours to get out of California, but on the East Coast, I was in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all within the span of a few hours! I was trying to take a picture of some river or another and missed the New Hampshire sign, which bummed me out, but oh well!
The little air bnb that my mom rented in Rockport was just perfect. We both felt like it was the most comfortable little house, as if we’d been there a million times already and were just returning. It felt like going to grandma’s house, if you know what I mean. That first afternoon, we dropped off our stuff and strolled into Rockport. The funny thing is, I’d been there only eight months before, but somehow missed a ton of the town. In my defense, it was freezing cold when I had been there in October, and we were on the opposite side of town searching for beanie’s to warm our frozen ears, so we weren’t really strolling very much.
Rockport is incredible in cold weather, but it is PERFECT when it’s warm. We spent some time on the little beach right before town, then wandered around Bearskin Neck (pretty sure that’s what the street is called, for some odd reason) and looked in the shops. Eventually, we were starving to death, so we decided to eat at Roy Moore’s Fish Shack, mostly because they had items other than seafood on their menu- at that point, I was sick of seafood and needed something else! I had a BLT, Cam had her normal cheeseburger, and my mom had the lobster mac & cheese. I was all lobstered out. 🙂
To be honest with you, the next few days are all kind of a blur to me now. We did spend one afternoon in Salem which was cool! Funny thing is, I loved Salem so much the first time I was there but it was too crowded for my taste in October- going back in June, it was much less crowded, but after seeing so many beautiful places in the preceding days, it wasn’t as awesome as I remembered. Maybe it was the Fall magic that was missing? I did get to visit the Salem Witch Museum, which was very cool, and Camryn REALLY liked it there. We also visited Salem Willows, a super old-timey park with old rides and an arcade. I got sunburned like crazy that day, and we were very tired by the time we headed back to the house. I believe Cam and I stayed in that night playing dice while my mom went to town and ate dinner alone.
We spent a lot of time just driving around, looking at houses, to be honest. I’m really glad my mom was into that, too, because it’s just so much fun back east. Even though it’s all in the USA, it couldn’t be more different than California- and that’s what makes it so incredible!
We never made it to Boston, and we didn’t do the walking history tour at night in Salem like I’d hoped, but I was more than willing to let those things go just to enjoy the little town where we were. We walked so, so much and just did a lot of sightseeing, and I couldn’t have been happier with the way it all worked out.
Before I knew it, it was time to head home. I was glad to be back, but I will always, always love New England- and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one day I called it home.
Okay, so…I left off after a day spent at the beautiful Wolf Neck State Park, I believe? I didn’t even mention the breakfast we ate that morning in an old restaurant on the edge of Freeport, the nice people we chatted with, or the big old frogs we were super lucky to hear (they sounded like ducks, you guys! We were searching that little pond for ducks!), and then finally, to see, in a little pond beside the restaurant.
Anyway, after a long day out in the sun, shopping, sightseeing, and hiking, we headed back to the hotel. We had promised Cam that we would take her to Palace Playland, the amusement park at Old Orchard Beach, but unfortunately, we hadn’t planned it out too well, and found out that they closed early on Sunday and wouldn’t open up again until the following weekend. Hazards of showing up on the East Coast before summer truly begins, I suppose. I felt so bad! Camryn did that thing where she cries quietly with gigantic eyes…so much worse than a temper tantrum, I’ll tell you that much. But there was nothing we could do about it- except bribe her with swimming in the hotel pool. So that’s what we did. We got her some goggles, and we headed to the pool.
After a little while of swimming and a longer while of sitting in the hot tub, we got dressed and went looking for food. This was the one regretful meal of the trip. It was one of those things where you’re hungry and exhausted and a million miles from home, so you just put your reservations aside and roll the dice on a place that looks like a dive, because, hey! You might get lucky! Well, this time, we did not. The place was called JJ’s Eatery, and from across the street it looked okay. Up close, however, the entryway was littered with plastic condiment cups and ketchup smeared across the sidewalk. Not great, but okay.
I don’t want to dwell on the whole experience, but lets just say this- I am the least squeamish person, I swear I am. If I am having misgivings about a place, it has to be pretty bad, and I was. I honestly think it might have been the first time I’ve ever felt worried about eating somewhere. For whatever reason, neither my mom or I were willing to voice our concerns, though. I ordered (eventually, when someone came around) a drink, some steamers (clams) and salad bar. I thought I’d try to keep it light. Any worries I had were quickly ramped up when I headed to the salad bar and caught a glimpse of the kitchen. It. Was. Filthy. Garbage overflowing the can and all over the floor- simply dismal. The salad bar, while sparse, was probably the best part of my meal. To summarize, the clams were some mutant species I’d not seen before (and hope never to again) and were slimy and filled with sand. It took a million years to get our check, and I left with an unfilled stomach, BUT, mercifully, I had also lost my appetite, so that was good. Oh, and my mom ate a bug while we were there. It landed on her fork right as she paused to finish speaking before taking a bite, and she ate it before we could say anything. It all happened very fast. Cam and I swiveled our heads to look at each other in disbelief, and we all laughed very, very hard about that. We will not be returning to that fine establishment.
The following morning, it was raining, but nothing crazy. We got dressed and headed to Portland. We hoped to take a Ferry ride out to some of the islands, but once again, our poor planning and out of date online info made that impossible. Darn it! I was really looking forward to a boat ride. Instead, we wandered around Portland, which is a gorgeous, clean city- it was like if San Francisco and Boston had a sweet little baby city together, and drank in the sights. There are marvelous views to be had, and so many cool shops and coffee places. Unfortunately, I was a bit grouchy and I’m not my best in any city- the traffic and pace are rough for me, especially if I don’t know where the hell I am- so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I might have if I were…someone else, I guess.
We did get a chance to visit the Longfellow House museum in Portland, and, though I thought for sure Cam would be bored with the whole thing, she really enjoyed it! That kid is full of surprises. The house is filled with not just period appropriate furniture, but the ACTUAL furniture that was in the house during the life of Longfellow…or, more precisely, his sister, who had refused to have the house updated in her lifetime. The kitchen had been left in it’s 1700’s condition, even though she’d lived there in the 1800’s. She really didn’t like change, I guess.
I had to come back & edit this in because I totally forgot! We also took a drive out to the Portland Head Light Lighthouse. We didn’t stay long, but what a beautiful drive, through a gorgeous neighborhood, and into a breathtaking old fort, I guess? Hell, I don’t know…it was just super gorgeous, whatever it used to be. 😂
The absolute highlight of the day for me, though, was the evening. We went back to Old Orchard Beach to freshen up, and then we went to meet up with my long-time friend Derek, who had moved to Arundel, Maine (neighbor to Kennebunkport) about two years ago, with his lovely wife, Krista, and their two daughters. We did get rather lost on our way to them- my GPS took me to a neighboring town. We knew something was wrong when it told us we had to get out and walk the rest of the way! Hahaha!
Eventually, though, we did find their amazing home, and trust me, if you’re going to get a little lost, the countryside of Maine in June is not a bad place to get lost in. Again, it was so green and wooded and pretty. After lots of hugs, and a tour of the property, we all piled into their two cars and headed out to dinner. I believe we ate at the Arundel Wharf restaurant? Anyway, we had a FEAST. God, it was so good to be with friends! What a relief to visit with people you know and love when you are so far away from home. I had something called Shoreman’s Pie, which is kinda like Shepherd’s Pie, but with lobster, scallops, and shrimp in a cream sauce, topped with truffle mashed potatoes. Yep. It’s as good as it sounds. A wonderful time was had by all, and Derek very kindly paid for everything, which I did not expect, and it was so sweet. The views from this place were incredible! The sunset over the little harbor, the whole vibe…so nice.
Best of all, their littlest daughter, Gabby, has always gotten along well with Camryn, so they were thrilled to hang out. Their older daughter, Jules, is incredible with the smaller girls. I just enjoyed their company so much, I’m really glad we made time for that. After dinner, we went for ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s and Krista and I took some silly photos and let the kids play in the grass outside the shop. Arundel is ridiculously picturesque. It’s one of those places where you already want to come back to while you are still there. It felt like I was on the set of Gilmore Girls or something, I’m not kidding.
After we’d finished there, Derek went ahead with the kids, while Krista showed us around town and took us out to Kennebunkport to see the Bush…what? Compound? Is that what it’s called? Anyway, it’s a big fancy house that is built out on a rock outcropping over the sea. Very nice. The scenery there reminded me exactly of parts of Ocean View Boulevard here in Pacific Grove, mixed with a little Carmel and Pebble Beach.
After a little time visiting back at their house, it was time for us to go. The little girls exchanged addresses and agreed to be pen-pals, which is the best thing ever, and after more hugs, we headed out, far happier than we’d been all day. And that is how you know you had a really good night. When you head home smiling and full of that joyful feeling that comes when you’ve spent time in the company of really good people. Definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Maine, and that is saying something, because Maine is AWESOME.
I would like to start this post by saying this: As much as I love Massachusetts, I loved Maine even more. After some time to let the whole trip settle, I can tell you exactly why- Maine is PERFECT for me. It has all of the beauty and charm that I love, but like a quarter of the people. Now granted, it was the very beginning of summer in the little tourist town of Old Orchard Beach where we stayed, so I’m sure it gets busier as the weather continues to warm, but I promise you, it was one of the best places I have ever been.
The weather was gorgeous the whole time we were there- there was one morning of rain, but it didn’t last, and it wasn’t enough to prevent us from exploring. The little Inn I rented online (always a gamble when you don’t know the area and you don’t really know what you’re going to get) was small but spotless, and it was literally half a block from the beach. I could stand on the step of our room and see the sand.
The first thing we did once we checked in and dumped our stuff was to walk to the beach, of course. My mom nor Camryn had ever seen the Atlantic ocean, which might not be a big deal to some, but it was to me. To think that that very morning I’d flown off from the edge of the Pacific, and a few hours later I was standing on the opposite side of the United States- that’s so cool to me. Cam splashed around a bit and we stretched our legs, then headed in to clean up and find dinner.
At the recommendation of the clerk at our Inn, we ate at a place called The Shack, which is right on the edge of the Palace Playland, a small amusement park that reminded me a lot of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. We sat outside on the upstairs deck and had the first of many, many seafood dinners. I had a lobster roll. You know what? I am not a huge fan of lobster. I’ve tried it enough times now to know for sure that I prefer crab any day of the week, but whatever. It was still yum. The best part was just being there, in a brand new place, with my mom and my daughter. It is still such an amazing thing to me, that I get to make these plans and achieve these little dreams of mine.
We turned in pretty early that night and I was up before everyone else, naturally. The cool thing about being on the East Coast is that I wake up at an almost decent hour there! If I’m out of bed at three at home, it’s six there, and the sun is already up! So I took a little walk by myself through the neighborhood- and it was a neighborhood, as we were at the very end of the hotels. The houses were just stunning, and the greenery and flowers blooming were spectacular. I was so overwhelmed with joy at the natural beauty, I couldn’t stop smiling. I picked a really, really good time to go to Maine, I think.
I found a little store in Ocean Park and bought some coffee and cinnamon rolls, and some juice for my mom, then headed back, chatting with a few people who were out and about. When I returned, my mom took off, and I got Cam ready for the day. That day, we drove to Freeport, but found that it was mostly full of outlet stores, which was not really what we were looking for- we can do that anywhere. But in one cool store, the lady asked us if we had been to Wolf Neck State Park, which we had never heard of. We decided to check it out.
Major score! First of all, the drive there was worth it even if the park had sucked, which it didn’t. The neighborhoods in New England are really something to see- each house more amazing than the next, so old and well-preserved. Even the new houses are made to look like they are old. I really like that. The park itself was gorgeous. The trails were flat and easy for all of us, and the forest and ocean and all the little islands you could see from the trails were so, so cool.
I have never seen green like the green I saw in Maine. I have never seen the ocean look so much like a lake. I have never seen so much forest two inches from a bustling town. If I was going to move to the East Coast, I think it would definitely be Maine for me.
The title is no lie. I just slept for about…um, 11 hours straight I think, and had some wild dreams. The funny part is, they all took place back on the East Coast, no doubt about it. For whatever reason, the New England coast really leaves such an impression on me. Each time I’ve been, I feel like I’m home. It’s crazy.
Of course, I missed my pets and the daily rhythm of my normal life- no one can keep up that frantic “gotta see it NOW” pace of vacation for too long. But coming back to California after a week spent across the United States is hard. California has this reputation for being glorious and beautiful, all sunshine and movie stars. And yes, there are parts of this massive state that are incredibly beautiful and sunny and wonderful. But hanging out on the East Coast, near the Atlantic Ocean, in June…or even in October, really, it’s just…breathtaking.
I took 1,744 pictures while I was there. Every corner you turn, every bend in the road, is some new sight that just knocks your socks off. I’m still so tired, trying to decompress from all that activity, and I am so, so glad to be home, BUT…I stand by my desire to make a move to the other coast sometime in the not-so-distant future.
Ideally, I’d love to try it out for a full year and see how I hold up during the winter, before committing to life there forever. Maybe this is a crazy dream, I don’t know. I sure would like to try it out though. I’m still trying to figure it all out, and that probably won’t happen this morning, but if anyone knows the best place to find rentals on the East Coast, please let me know. All I can find are summer or winter rentals, and I just want a regular one. Anywhere from Maine to Massachusetts, staying away from the bigger cities.
As far as the trip went, it was wonderful. I didn’t have a moment to spare for writing. We were running from the minute we got up most days, trying to drink it all in. I loved Massachusetts, of course, but Maine was slower and less busy, and I think I prefer that. Camryn was perfect- what a great little traveler she turned out to be! And my mom and I had a couple of typical little spats, but nothing major. I’d give the whole thing five out of five stars!
That’s all the time and energy I have to devote to this right now. I’ll give it a better breakdown soon, I swear!
Well, I’m not really on my way- not quite yet, anyway. This time tomorrow morning, I will already be at the airport with Cam, at our gate, waiting to board our flight. But you and I both know our vacations start well before we ever walk out the door of our homes. My brain has been in vacation mode all week, work nothing more than a bothersome distraction.
Does this mean I’ve been busy packing and preparing? Well…no. Just by virtue of the fact that I know I need to do a bunch of stuff, I have felt less inclined to do any of it. I have gotten all of our laundry done. I finally started packing our suitcases last night. I have dishes to do and one last Target run to pick up the final items I absolutely have to have with me for this trip- like those little tubes of freeze dried Starbucks instant coffee? Those are 100% necessary when staying in a hotel with questionable coffee availability and family who do not wake up anywhere near as early as you do. So, I need those. I need at least one new phone charger as all of mine seem to have stopped working this week. I really need a new fitbit band, but I’m hoping this one will hold up at least until I get where I am going. But I might see if they have one at Target, I don’t know.
Anyway you crack it, I will be somewhere in San Francisco tonight, sleeping in the first of a series of unfamiliar beds, and the adventure will begin.
This morning, I sat on my cushion for my normal prayer and meditation, and I set my intention for this day and this trip. Gratitude that this is my life now- I am a person who can plan a trek across the country and follow through. I can have confidence in myself, for I am capable, smart, and strong. I will be patient, with myself and others, knowing we are all doing the best we can at any given moment. And I will enjoy myself, basking in the love I have for my family, and that they have for me, as we embark on this adventure together.
Am I nervous? I would not be me if I weren’t, but…I trust that all will be well. So, Bon Voyage, my friends! I’ll catch up with you all when I am in Maine- I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to write while I wait for everyone else to wake up!
As I wait for Cam to thoroughly wet her hair in the shower so that I can come and wash it for her (we are working towards her doing it on her own, but if I want her to smell like a human child rather than a wet dog, for now, the work must be done by me), I thought I would drop by with a few tidbits. Yes, it takes her that long to get her hair wet. Don’t get me started on how frustrating it is, raising a child who has two speeds- slow, and stopped. She gets that from her dad, for sure.
Anyway, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it recently, but my trip to Maine is almost upon me! We leave Friday afternoon for an overnight in the city, and fly out of SF early Saturday morning. This will be Cam’s first flight ever, so I’m a little nervous about that- I sincerely hope it doesn’t freak her out. I’m not much of a brave flyer myself, so if she falls apart, I’m in trouble. Actually, I’ll probably find myself becoming very calm if she is upset, as mothers often do, but still…I hope she loves it. That would be ideal.
I left my house exactly twice this weekend, and on one of the outings, I braved the bathing suit section at Target. I did what I always do, despite my many promises to never do it again, and bought a bathing suit, a pair of shorts, and a top, without trying any of them on. This is such a bad idea. Especially when you factor in the part where it is nearly impossible to get me to Target in the first place, let alone to go back and return or exchange something. Anyway, the shopping Gods were smiling on me this time. The suit not only fits, but it’s super flattering, and the shorts and top worked out well, too. So, after my stuff, Cam’s ton of new stuff (she’s grown yet another size in the past few months), dog food, cat food, and travel size items to take with us, I was out about three hundred dollars. Not that I expected anything less.
I’m getting excited about this trip! I’m meeting my mom there, and we should have a great time, fingers crossed. I cannot wait to see Maine, finally! I just wish I could skip the flights and be there without all the hassle.
Anyway, the last thing…I did something kind of weird yesterday. I got in bed in the afternoon, right after a bath, and I made a conscious decision to do absolutely nothing. I mean, no TV, no music, no phone, no ANYTHING. I wasn’t even trying to meditate. I honestly can’t remember the last time I spent 15 minutes in utter, total stillness. The things your mind will do when you give it no material to work with! My God! My thoughts were doing the River Dance, the Can-Can, and all sorts of acrobatics trying to get my attention. I just tried to stay out of it. It’s not easy to do nothing.
Eventually though, for probably less than a minute, I experienced complete and total silence. The house was silent, my thoughts were silent…did you know that silence actually has a sound? It is almost like the low hum of electricity, except it’s in your ears. I don’t know why I wanted to do that- I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything. It’s just…it isn’t often that I’m not trying to accomplish something, even if it’s just watching a show on TV. I just wanted to see if I could do it, I guess. Wanted to know if I could sit with myself, how it would feel.
It felt nice. You should try it sometime.
Okay, I better go see what she is doing. This is ridiculous.
In my mind, there are several rivers of thought-distinct rivers all travelling in the same direction, with miles of space between them. In one river are all the earthly thoughts about who I am- the criticisms, the judgments, the pain, the memories, and all the debris and murkiness picked up over a lifetime of living. In the next river, there is the brisk and frigid water of this modern life- societal expectations, the stress of keeping up, the teeming rapids of work, sleep, tasks…the rush of one day careening into the next as time rushes by faster and faster while months and years pass. The third river of thought is older than time itself, much older than the other two. You can tell because it is neither muddy nor rushed, but it flows downstream peacefully, knowing it will always arrive where it is meant to be, that nothing can stop it. Though this river has always been here, it is hard for me to get to. I have spent most of my time being swept away by the other two, and by countless other streams and puddles and creeks that branch off of them. I find that the third river is difficult to reach sometimes, and though I love it most of all, it’s the hardest one to stay at. I am forever being pulled away, sucked back into the muddy waters of one, or the furious pace of the other.
I am not judging this experience, I am simply explaining it in a way that makes sense to me. Have you observed something similar in your own life? Because this is the best illustration for the layers of my unfolding life that I can come up with. There is the emotional and mental aspect, there is the physical, human aspect, and then there is the eternal, spiritual aspect.
In my short-sighted, human way, I have been struggling against the same exact issues since the very beginning of this blog. I suspected that was true when I started questioning the originality of my posts lately. It was confirmed when I took a little walk down memory lane this morning, and saw myself writing about the same feelings, the same moods, the same ideas- with slight variations, of course- over and over. The reason I find this more funny than alarming is a direct result of this spiritual hurricane season I have personally been going through, trying, inadequately, to convey here.
You see, I have been afraid and resentful of the muddy river of my emotions. I have allowed myself to get beat up by the debris of bad memories and sucked under by the weight of my own judgement. I’ve struggled to swim against the current, trying to go back and make sense of it all, not realizing that none of it matters, the past is GONE. This water only goes one way, and all along it’s been trying to move me forward, farther and farther away from those things. I’ve been fighting so hard in this river when all I ever needed to do was let it move me along. All I ever needed to do was let go.
And this cold river over here? The one that sounds like a thousand clamoring voices and all their opinions and expectations? I have been right out in the middle of that river, tumbling end over end, but no matter how fast I went, I never got anywhere. I can’t really get out of this river, not completely. But you know what? I found out that I can stay out of the middle where the rapids are, and along the edges, things move more slowly. I don’t have to keep up with anyone else to be happy- in fact, the opposite is true. The more I focus on just my life, and the people in it, the better I feel.
River number three, that nirvana where we all come from? We aren’t supposed to live there, I don’t think. Not all the time, not while we are earth-bound in these skin suits. That would be nice, but it wouldn’t teach us nearly as much about being people as the other two rivers (and all the other figurative bodies of water we cross, tides we get swept away in, currents that pull on us) do. We all have our own rivers. We all have to learn from them.
I have spent the bulk of my life in these waters and never named them or saw them for what they are. And because of that, I have fought and struggled and nearly drowned, yet never gained an inch. Every time my head breaks the surface and I get to take a breath, I’m in the same spot. I know this sounds grim, but I’m smiling as I write these words. I can break this cycle now and move on.
As long as I am a human being, I will continue to have human issues. I am here for a reason. I have been through what I’ve been through for a reason. The people in my life are here on purpose. That is all I need to know, which means the past can be forgiven, the pain can be released, and I can let go. I don’t need to be afraid.
As long as I need a roof over my head and food in my cupboards, I will have to participate, at the very least, in my own survival. But I don’t have to throw myself into the chaos completely. I do have some say in how much I allow myself to be swept up in the craziness. I can turn off the news, step away from social media, keep my consumption of bullshit low. Listen to my own voice, and let it guide me.
Releasing my fear of the first river, and learning to find my place in the second, I expect that there will be much more peace, much more time that I can choose to spend contemplating river number three. Who knows? Perhaps one day I’ll find the place where they converge. Now wouldn’t that be something?