I bought myself a greeting card a few weeks ago that is now displayed on my boat, which also happens to be my home. On the front of the card is a quote by 15th century Indian mystic poet, Kabir, which reads:

I felt in need of a great pilgrimage so I sat still for three days …

After a brutal first half of 2018 (I know I’m not alone), this quote jumped out at me as the very thing I craved. From early January until mid-July, to sit still and do nothing was not an option. If my personal life was challenging, it was only compounded by the general craziness swirling around us: the never-ending political circus; the plight of children separated from their parents at our borders; the continued assault on our environment; a barrage of petitions and pleas filling email inboxes daily.

But then, we left. My husband and I untied the lines holding us to the dock and to our lives in Seattle and headed up the coast. Into the San Juan Islands, a beautiful cluster of islands with endless anchorages and hikes through the woods. On up to the Canadian Gulf Islands, an extension of the same chain. And then beyond, part way up the Strait of Georgia to Hornby Island where we sat on our boat and stared at the sandstone coast line, swam in the warm(ish) water, walked the wide, sandy beach and hiked through the ancient trees in woods that rimmed the brown, windswept bluffs.

It took a while to get here, both physically and mentally. In these days of connectivity, as my husband says, “alligators chased us up the coast!” We received emails requesting forms and papers and necessary action having to do with the personal things referred to above. We printed and mailed things from Friday Harbor. Tech savvy friends anchored near us on Stuart Island helped us figure out how to download, sign and scan yet another form that we were asked for. And an email from our insurance company required immediate action. Or else! Ye gods!

Then, mercifully, as we wandered further north, everything began to grow quiet. Including us.

The vast scenery, great swaths of water flanked by mountainous silhouettes, birds flying and diving all around, seals’ popping their sleek heads out of the water for a closer look at us, porpoises frolicking in our bow wake. And then me, hypnotized by all of this, sitting on the bow of my boat where the only sound was the lapping of water against the hull. With the noise of my life fading away, at last I could sit and just look. Just be.

In the dictionary, the word, vacation, is defined as “a period of suspension of regular work, study or other activity … (see vacate).” Vacate is defined as “…to cause to be empty or unoccupied; make vacant.” Vacant is defined as “…free from work, business or care … having no contents; empty”

To go on vacation, then, is to literally “vacate” one’s life. To fend off those alligators when they come snapping at your heels. If you are able to do this, to truly do this,  you will rediscover your center, your core self. And find the strength and resolve to carry on for the rest of the year.

This is important. This is something we have to remember to do once in a while. To regain our center. To remember who we are. To find our way back into our true nature which, by the way, is joy.

Our lives are so full. Busier than ever, I fear. Rather than fill our calendars and our lives with constant activity, we need to take a break and, as I did in one cove, watch the drips off my kayak paddle as they hit the water and create concentric rings radiating out from the center. To find that childlike brain that felt guilt-free contentment in just looking at a spider web in the woods or staring at cloud formations in the sky. It’s what we need. It’s who we are.

If you can’t get away, find some time to just sit still, if not for three days, perhaps for a few hours. It will restore you like nothing else!

IRENE PANKE HOPKINS (irenehopkins.com) is a freelance writer who lives on her sailboat in Ballard. Feel free to contact her at hopkinsirene23@gmail.com.