We just got home from a week in Caracau, a desert island in the Caribbean, due north of Venezuela. In my grade school geography class, it was referred to as one of the Dutch Antilles. Aruba, Bon Aire, and Caracau are popular vacation spots with Bon Aire and Caracau being the favorites for scuba divers, in large part because the many magnificent coral reefs are easily accessible from the shore. The water temperature was around 80 degrees and the ambient temperature ranged from 80 to 95 most days, with a constant and welcome breeze. The food was fine, the beer was cold and abundant and the locals were friendly and spoke English along with Dutch and several other indigenous dialects. It is the sort of place that most people in the Pacific Northwest long for about this time of year – an azure fantasy realized. In a word, “paradise.”
Except, not for me. I am one of those odd ducks who believes I have left paradise behind whenever I leave home. Like a low grade infection, I experience a little “heart sickness” whenever I am away. I know - it’s pathetic! My very favorite day of vacation is the day I pack my bag for the return trip. When the cold damp air hits me at SeaTac as I head across the sky bridge to the parking garage, I feel like doing cartwheels.
Even the unseasonably cold temperatures which had recently dumped snow in the foothills did not dampen my enthusiasm for being home. In the spring, part of the joy of being home is returning to my garden with its daily surprises and discoveries. It’s like being around a new born – you need to check on things every half hour or so, because something new is bound to appear.
In the week that I had been gone, the lilies of the valley had poked up through last fall’s layer of top dressing. There they stood stolidly at attention among the airy leaves of the native bleeding hearts. By today, the leaves have begun to unfold and the blossom buds have loosened. Trilliums have appeared that I had forgotten about. That is the great gift of the spring garden – many of my favorites that take center stage this time of year retreat into obscurity as the summer approaches. The fawn or trout lilies which were just beginning to show off their dappled foliage are now in full bloom. Their delicate yellow and white petals turn up at the ends like a bonnet, fondly reminiscent of the cheerful milkmaids that cavorted through my childhood picture books.
Home is my dog, Barley, who flies out of the chair that he is not supposed to be in, rushing the door to greet me, hedge hog in his mouth, diving back and forth between my legs in a full body wag. Home is the place where flannel sheets can feel good from Labor Day until the 4th of July. It is a fire in the woodstove, a fresh pot of tea and a mystery in my favorite chair – the one recently vacated by the dog! And, it is the sublime quiet that comes with living at the end of the road. A garden, a dog, and a fire – lucky me to live in paradise all year round with the opportunity to leave just often enough that I don’t take it for granted.