In 5 days we leave for Boston to take our last child to college. T is so excited to go that she can hardly drag herself through the motions of these last days of life at home, at work, in the old familiar territories. She has more than one foot out the door already; I'd say that at this point she has only one foot left inside the door.
When T suggested that I drive with her to Bar Harbor yesterday there was certainly some self-preservation in her request. It's an hour and a half commute each way, too much idle time for a preoccupied mind to keep spinning about where it's heading and what it's leaving behind. It was also a great invitation and a fine idea for me. "Mom, why don't you come with me and you can go climb a mountain?" So I did. I also got material for two stories for my online column, and went out to dinner with my darling daughter in a bustling summer hot spot on the coast of Maine. Pretty good deal for all.
Despite the summer crowds, I was struck by my incredible good fortune to live so near Acadia National Park. It is a gloriously beautiful place, with a unique juxtaposition of rocky top mountains and rugged seacoast that is perpetually breathtaking. The mountains are easy to climb with incredible views. So why do I get there so rarely?
There are two reasons, I think.
First, it's amazing how small our sphere of existence is when it comes to daily living. I grew up 40 miles from New York City. Men (mostly men, back in my childhood days) commuted to the city every day on the train. Yet I only went to the city once every year or two. To this day I have never visited the Statue of Liberty. Our daily lives keep most of us within a few miles' striking distance of home and the workplace. Even as our global connections increase, our physical lives remain bounded by a pretty limited circumference. How many weeks, or even months sometimes go by while you plan and fail to get together with a friend who lives less than an hour away?
There is some irony in the second reason. Although we may never see some of the "great sights" that others come to see in the vicinity of our home areas, they are too near for us to think of them as a destination. When it comes time for us to take off and explore the world, we skip over a lot of world that is close to home. Travel time, for many people, means getting far away.
We take for granted the wonders that are right in our own back yard, in a figurative sense. Everyone should take the time to be a tourist in their home town, in their home region, in their home state - and try to see it through the eyes of someone "from away." Your inside information might make you appreciate it even more.
And sometimes there are even wonders in our own back yard in a literal sense. Too often we miss out on what is right here, in our busy yearning to see what is out of reach.