Vacations tend to delineate one’s life. If you don’t take one every now and then, it’s like a snowball gaining mass as it rolls down an endless hill: you just accumulate all this baggage and have nowhere to put it. And that leads me to more snow. This past weekend, seven other writers and myself holed ourselves up in a snowy cabin up in the Catskills, a palace really, with views of far mountains, a hot tub, giant beds, and a tower that overlooked all. Not to mention the giant Easter Island statue in front of the house which channeled creative energy toward us when the stars were right.
This was my first vacation, excluding cons, in about six years. Four of us drove up in the blizzard on Friday, and we made it all the way through the occluding snow, past trucks spraying us with a wet cloak of invisibility, to a point less than a half mile from the house. But our little dinky car wouldn’t make it up the snow-blanketed hill. A good samaritan in town eventually took us up in his 4×4 pickup, and as we bounced over slushy, snowy roads I praised Man’s conquering of nature. My feet were also, you know, kind of cold by then.
The weekend was spent writing, eating, pausing to step out into the freezing cold and then into the hot tub. I disassembled an old-school game console and put it back together in working order. And I nominated myself the daily wood-collector for our fire. I have to say, there were few times in the past six years that I felt as relaxed as I was then, with the saw in my hand, treading across the snow, with the sun beaming in my face and my thoughts unladen with the burdens of life. Going on vacation is a bit like regressing: I returned to a previous state when I had much fewer cares and worries. All I had to think about was food and writing, and maybe wood.
After we made it back to New York through yet another snow storm, and as I walked down a well-lit Manhattan street — when just hours before I was on the top of a quiet mountain — I felt I had changed. I was orders of magnitude more relaxed. Years of stress had dissolved away into the hot tub, had been sucked up into space by the Easter Island statue, had been burned to ash in the cabin fireplace.
It also didn’t hurt that, while I was there, I polished a story to a shine and started a new novel. I’m quite sure that I won’t be waiting so long to go away again in the future.