I’m writing this from Lihue Airport, waiting to board my flight from Kaua’i to Seattle.
(I am not sure if it is Lihue Airport or Lihue International Airport; it is one of those things that I’ll have to check once I’m back in the ‘mainland’, as the airport calls it, back in my not-quite-air-conditioned apartment with my not-quite-mopped floors.)
I’m looking forward to be back home, the same way I’m always looking forward to being back home — I’ve written before about the first two hours back home after a trip, and how they are somewhat sacred.
Eliot wrote that the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time, which is not really a sentiment to take literally but I’ll do so anyway. Though there’s a passage by Calvino from Invisible Cities, which I broke through in an afternoon this weekend, that I think hits the spot even better, in an imagined conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan:
“There is still one of which you never speak.’
Marco Polo bowed his head.
‘Venice,’ the Khan said.
Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’
The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’
And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.”
I did a lot of reading this week: Invisible Cities, The Paper Menagerie, A Gentleman in Moscow. A lot of walking, too, and a lot of sitting. I am the type of person for whom this is something of a struggle. The first few days I spent in almost a productivity withdrawal: I would wake up early and grab coffee by the beach, sure, and poke my way through the usual morning things. Duolingo, emails, YNAB. And then maybe I’d go for a run or work out in the fitness center, and luxuriate in the ocean or a hot tub for a little, idling away at a book or at an empty notepad.
(I love the phrasing fitness center, by the way. Who was the enterprising marketing associate at a hotel who first decided it was a marginally more attractive name than gym?)
But then by noon or so, I would be laying out reading by the beach and the shakes would set in. It felt wrong to spend a Monday afternoon not glued to Slack, not closing out issues on GitHub, not writing or coding or producing anything of value.
This lasted two days until I was really able to kick the part of my brain that said should you really be idling right now?. Two years ago — the last time I was in Kauai — it took me three days, which hopefully indicates a positive trend.
(My attempt to curb my caffeine habit was much less successful, if you’re curious.)
I want to come back from Kaua’i a better person: a tanner person, sure, and one briefly fattened by mai tais and grilled pineapple and pork skewers, but one who remembers how easy it is to forget what it feels like to do a thing. To have some sense of fortitude and remove from the things that necessitate vacations in the first place.
Will it work? Probably not.
These things will fade as soon as I step back into my apartment, take a long shower and write out my tasks for the day. It feels good to slip back into a routine, even if the routine is imperfect: it is a glove that has worn you well.
As the sunburn on my ear begins to fade back to a not-unpleasant sort of beige, so do my memories of these halcyon August days: the evenings of rum and sandalwood, the quiet dusk falling on white sand shores and how it felt to run into the ocean during a light rain.
I am getting older now (I can hear my friend S hissing shut up, you’re twenty five, you’re a kid) but it is nice to feel briefly childlike, to turn off your brain, to spend a week by the ocean.
It is already Sunday in Seattle as I write this. My Sunday in Seattle will be like so many previous episodes: a trip to the farmer’s market, a three mile run down 12th, dodgeball and laundry detergent and unfulfilled meal prep aspirations.
This Sunday will be a little busier than usual: I’ll have to unpack, catch up on work email (I know I should wait until Monday, but grant me this one vice!), self-medicate with coffee a little more aggressively than usual.
But, with any luck, it’ll be a little more sluggish than usual as well.
I hope you carve out a week of exceptional unproductivity.