What I learned on vacation

We left on a family vacation on July 22nd - our longest yet. My brain believes the calendar stopped then and there. But the clock kept ticking despite me, through the mountains to the sea, in homes of friends old and new, through day trips and lazy-ish mornings and late night conversation. It's really August 2nd, we're back home again, and I've learned so much while we were away. Here's a smattering to share while I link up with Emily at Chatting at the Sky

Photographing mountains through car windows is hard to do. I have a phone-full of blurry trees, passing semis, and random road signs. If the light was poor, the mountains looked like black lumps off in the distance; if it was bright, I caught reflexions of my lap instead of the pure outdoors beyond the glass. I already knew from prairie trips that the angle of the windshield made the scenery dead-ahead seem impossibly far away, but I'd forgotten how often the van tends to find a bump in the road at just the wrong moment. Thankfully, there was beauty in abundance; I learned to put the phone down at reasonable intervals and trust there'd be more to capture down the road. And every once in a while, a shot turned out just right.

The B.C. drought is no joke. It took me from Canmore, Alberta to Hope, B.C. to realize what I wasn't seeing: the snowy peaks and run-off waterfalls stuck so firmly in my memory from previous mountain trips simply weren't there. And while the slopes themselves were still green, creeks lined with sun-baked rocks and brown-grassed boulevards were a common sight once we reached the Fraser Valley. It made it hard to begrudge the rainy days that rolled in with us; it wreaked havoc on our outdoor plans, but the moisture was so greatly needed. Hopefully the area gets some more rain soon.

Blackberries are best straight off the bush. The timing of our vacation had more to do with matching schedules and work commitments than hitting berry season, but we managed to roll into the lower mainland just at the right time for blackberries. The brambles were everywhere: along train tracks, in the ditches, sprawling through creek banks, even invading front-yard hedges. They grew like weeds despite the dry weather, and, on public land, were free for the picking. I've always been fairly underwhelmed by store-bought blackberries; I find them tart and firm and more than a little bland. These little numbers were in a different class altogether: smaller, sweeter, incredibly juicy, and ready to fall apart at the slightest pressure. No wonder we spotted cars pulled off to the shoulder while their owners gleaned berries by the bucket-full. I wished we'd brought some empty pails ourselves. Delicious!

Extended stays with old friends are pretty spectacular, especially when you both have kids. The main reason for our transmountain trek was to visit some of our dearest friends. They just moved out west last winter, and we've been planning this trip ever since. Keeping in touch has been tricky, between time changes and shift changes and kids using family skype-dates to show off their face-making skills (they get over that, right?). And great as it was to watch said kidlets actually talk and play together again, it was even better to settle them into bed and talk as adults, long into the night. It made me wish we'd organized some family sleepovers when we still lived in the same city; evening visits in town were always cut short when the first bedtime called. It was a treat to say extended "goodnights" that weren't interrupted by "where is your coat?" and "put on your shoes," even if the mornings came all too early.

It's so easy to over-schedule your vacation, even when you deliberately set out to keep it simple. On our way to the Greater Vancouver area, we passed through many cities, several national parks, hiking trails, hot springs, museums, and tourist traps galore. Any mention of our destination was met with recommends for favourite parks, shops, and various attractions. It took some doing to remind myself that while this was our first visit to the West Coast, it was hardly going to be the last, and there was no way we could possibly do it all. Almost all the places to see got firmly put off 'til another time. When it came to visiting people, however, it was harder to choose practicality over connection. I didn't really put together that I'd planned meet friends and family in four different cities, and that driving there and back would eat up a lot of our days. I also didn't connect how many of our plans were dependent on the weather, nor how little my over-excited offspring would sleep. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, the kids were spent, and it seemed kind of silly to drive them another two hours through Vancouver when the weather was iffy. The friends I was to meet were dear to me, but just names to them, so we moms went to the beach on our own, promising to collect seashells and take lots of pictures. We had a wonderful girly afternoon, and our husbands' tell us the kids had a great day too. The ocean isn't going anywhere. It'll wait for the next trip. Or even the one after.

That's all for this round. There's plenty more in the ol' memory bank, but this is enough to share.

'Til next time, my friends. It was a wondrous adventure.


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