I live in the town I grew up in, which has its challenges, but also some interesting benefits. The longer I live here, the more layered it becomes, like an intricate personal sculpture. As I traverse the landscape of the town and its environs, memories are embedded from different times of my life, some lying dormant, others springing to life. Others fold over or cross new ones in strange ways. My stepson had the same French teacher I had, for example, and she is the same, only more so and wow I related to her from a new angle when he was in her class and not me but with the old angle intact underneath.
And while it’s also wonderful to go to Paris or Bobenheim-Roxheim, the beauty of what we call the “bio-regional” vacation is not to be underestimated. A bioregional vacation can really get you into the mode of place appreciation because you are stopped from the day-to-day routine, there are no obligations and it’s kind-of a challenge and very good practice to have no obligations close to home. (It’s also cheaper than far away, you contribute to your local economy and it’s nice to only have a 20-minute drive to get home again) People come here to the San Francisco North Bay to vacation all the time, so why not us?
It is hard to do a real vacation at home at first because your obligations will draw on you, so we usually go somewhere close to home but not in our town. Our last one was over the past weekend. We went to San Francisco. (San Francisco is 40 miles away) We stayed in a beautiful little apartment within walking distance of the deYoung museum, where our friend (who was vacationing herself somewhere else) lives. We fed her cats in return for vacationing there. She left us recommendations for restaurants and bike routes, bikes, guidebooks and elaborate hand-drawn maps of her neighborhood. We walked to the deYoung Museum, where we spent an entire day checking out New Guinea art, the painting galleries, went on the Valentine’s themed tour of particular love and scandal related artworks, took in Ruth Asawa’s mysterious hanging twisted wire sculptures and hung out in the tower with its 360 degree view of the city.
I don’t feel like a tourist when we go on these little trips, but more of a curious observer who isn’t obligated to be “going” the whole time. Since we are close by, we can take our time and not do some things because we know we can come back anytime and the mad rush to see everything just doesn’t exist. We stayed at “home” reading with the two cats and playing games, we walked around a beautiful little Korean neighborhood and saw stores selling tapioca drinks and fish, we browsed at Green Apple books and ate delicious pizza. It was raining and we walked in the rain. I made French toast in the mornings in a normal kitchen. It felt relaxing, we learned new things and had open eyes to the little neighborhood we were living in, we were inspired creatively and when I was sick the last day we just went home and I went to bed to recover without too much of a feeling of “ruining the vacation”. More layers of place grow and stretch out within the distance of a day’s walk from the place where I live—in the place where I live. The place where I live.