"Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another."
- Anatole France, French novelist (1844 -1924)
At 8:30 a.m. on a sunny Sunday in June, a group of 15 vacationing teachers gathered at the small Kaz Vineyard in the Sonoma Valley. We trimmed excess leaves from grapevines as both the sun and the conversation warmed up. We laughed as someone began singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
Like Tom Sawyer, enticing his friends into whitewashing the fence, Rick Kasmier, owner of the Kaz Winery (www.kazwinery.com) had enticed us to pay $20 each to do three hours of farm work. That's right; we paid him. Nevertheless, we felt a strangely satisfying sense of accomplishment when we looked back down a row of neatly trimmed grapevines. And besides, Kaz treated us to an alfresco brunch complete with his lovely wines afterward.
Yes, I worked on my vacation. During my free time, I merely exchanged one kind of work for another. Although I took naps and took a trip on my vacation this year, in the past I have taken classes, taken hikes, taken second jobs or taken on home improvement projects. It is somehow refreshing to do work that is different from my job.
My friend Linda, who teaches in Idaho, came along on this wine country trip. We told ourselves it was so that we could work on the details for the upcoming wedding of her middle daughter. I was to be the "wedding wrangler," helping Linda with the preparation. We worked out the menu, discussed the decorations, the wine, the cake.
You should know that Linda and I have worked and traveled together before. Together we've run classrooms, teacher trainings, summer camps and even the Colorado River. But this would be our first wedding. We had lots of work ahead of us.
Since we were in the wine country and we needed wine for the wedding, we toured wineries and tasted wines. Research, you know. We learned about the process and art of winemaking. For someone like me who is usually satisfied with "2 buck Chuck" or a chilled glass of White Zin, I felt a little out of my league. So it shouldn't be too surprising that our favorite wine, the wine we actually purchased for the wedding, was at Sutter Home. When I asked the hostess why I liked their wine best, she confided, "You probably don't like oak. Our wines never touch it." My lowbrow tastes run pretty deep, I guess. Good to know.
A few weeks later, I flew to Boise for the wedding. In the four days before the big event, I helped with the shopping and food preparation. Linda baked and I started icing the multi-layered cake. I was still unconvinced that I could do the actual decorating, having never done it before. You see how this friendship works, don't you? Linda decides what WE are going to do. Together we become pretty fearless.
On the morning of the wedding, Linda put the finishing touches on the bridesmaids' and flower girl's dresses while I decorated the cake. She arranged the flowers while I continued to decorate the cake.
By the end of that very long day, Linda and I, along with our husbands, had pulled together and pulled off a beautiful backyard wedding on a warm July evening. And I had decorated my first wedding cake. There was a tangible result from our labor.
When I got home, I had to put any work on hold while I spent two weeks recuperating from minor surgery. After a couple of days of just lying on the couch, though, I had to DO something. I could rest, but I certainly couldn't relax. So I sorted boxes (and boxes) of old photographs by decade. In addition, I filled trash cans with pictures of unknown people in unknown places and just plain bad pictures. Again, the result was a sense of accomplishment and just enough fatigue to warrant a nap.
How am I spending the rest of my summer vacation? Working. I'm doing yard work and housework. I'm working on scrapbooks and in my classroom. I'm working my way through a stack of good books. I'm working on getting a few vacation pounds off before school starts again.
And I'm relaxing. This summer I learned that even during vacation, there is satisfaction gained from labor. And it's even better when you can take a nap afterward.
n Lorie Smith Schaefer teaches kindergarten at Seeliger.