The Cost of Re-fueling

[Previous Rural Farmgirl, April 2009 – May 2010]
Last week I was given the most amazing gift – time away camping on the Spokane River. Many times during my mini vacation, I found myself totally mystified that with all the things I had going on in my life, I was still able to just sit and relax. There is something about fresh air and bonfires that lend themselves to relaxation. I caught myself sitting by the fire literally thinking about nothing. I can’t remember the last time that I just sat and pondered air. There, I was content to listen to the water rushing, the talking and laughing, of the fellow campers and the occasional mosquito buzzing around my head. Even with the company of the mosquito, I sat there totally relaxed and happy. I melted into the scene as a bystander.

There is something about the “great outdoors” that seems to put all things in perspective for me. My life doesn’t seem bigger then it ought to, or for that matter, smaller than I can sometimes be convinced that it is. As I sat there allowing the rhythm of the rushing water to wash away the stresses that had accumulated over time, I was lost in the feeling of immense gratitude.

This experience reminded me of the importance of stopping our lives and just breathing in all that is right. I sometimes feel that the world just wants us to absorb the negative. Newspapers and TVs blast it at us. Even well-meaning folks in our lives can begin to sound like Henny Penny shouting that the sky is falling, leaving us little option but to succumb to the alarm and begin to focus on it. Yet in that moment, I heard myself say, “All is well, all is right. I am enough and I have enough.” I was totally prepared to put off all the “stuff” for another time, allowing myself to get totally lost in the gift I had been given.

I wish I were one of those happy-go-lucky girls who automatically “live” in the present. I am not. I have to be reminded occasionally. I tend to get my life running too fast with very little effort. Then before I know it, I feel like the cart I was pushing is now headed straight down a steep hill and I’m no longer in control, being pulled at a pace I would prefer not to go. It takes something as amazing as nature to grab me and remind me that all those things that are pulling at me will still be there, waiting for me after I take the time to “refuel.”

Since my “time out” it has been easier to let go of the little things, allowing them to just past by and not getting hung up on the things that aren’t quite right. My weekend away reminded me of all the things that I tend to take for granted. Things like the effortless way I can move around in my little circle of friends, the joy that my kids bring to me on a daily basis, my health, my garden, a great job and a marriage that has endured the tests of time.

As I sat by the river watching the water rush by, it all felt somewhat surreal. On one hand the whole world seemed to be operating in slow motion as my mind struggled to engage. Yet on the other hand, sounds of fellow campers laughing and talking reminded me that I was not alone. My mind rushed to the day before…the meetings and appointments and to how out of seemingly nowhere an old high school friend had called.

Shawn and I were “partners in crime” growing up, and yet somehow with marriage and kids and life we didn’t stay as connected as we always promised we would. As it turned out she was able to meet me on the river and we quickly jumped back into the ease of friendship as if no time had passed. As we sat, at the campsite’s picnic table, covering topics like marriage, kids and careers, little seemed to matter more than being present. I felt swept back into time, when summer at the lake called to us, with its rope swings, dirt bikes and  our secret phone calls to our, latest summer crushes. How did so much time pass without me being ever present?

My life has sometimes felt like a log caught in the river’s current, being swept to places it didn’t mean to go. I thought of the eight rafters I had seen earlier in the day, each with an oar and one of them yelling instructions to control the “pull.” I couldn’t help but be struck by the amount of purpose and focus they needed to manage the current. I found myself chuckling that they were wearing life jackets and helmets…boy, if that doesn’t say it all. When did I buy into the notion that a life well-lived just happens?

As the weekend came to a close, I found that re-entering the world outside the campground was harder than I expected. As I loaded the car and headed back to my world, the tasks at hand started calling to me with every passing mile.The three-hour drive home seemed to fly by, and as I pulled into my driveway I found myself asking how I could reshape my world so that I didn’t need to stop my life in order to refuel.

I am blessed to work out of a home office most of the time. It was one of my top goals when I left the corporate world. I love it, and I feel blessed. Yet I have also discovered that it makes it harder to “leave work,” both literally and figuratively, as my office doesn’t have doors that can be neatly shut. For me, the creative process doesn’t just work between 8 and 5.

I am learning that the 24 hours in my day will always fill themselves with something. Like anything, my day has to be managed so that it isn’t filled with everyone else’s to-do list, leaving my dreams, desires and to-dos crammed into the hours that should be reserved for refueling. I am learning the importance of spiritual maintenance – not just putting myself on the list, but going one step further and keeping myself there. I’m making it a habit to refuel, not allowing guilt to creep in but rather filling my tank with a balance of work, fun and learning.

Once again, life’s bigger lessons have come to me from nature. The lesson, of course, is that the cost of refueling is by all standards cheaper than the cost of letting your tank run dry.

  1. Charlotte Mordaunt says:

    How true this is. I just recently returned from a refueling trip to Boston where I met one of my greatest friends! She had flown in from Colorado and I had driven in from Syracuse and we were there to refuel and celebrate her 40th. For that short weekend, we just laughed and toured and acted like tourists with no cares in the world. On the drive home, I realized that I have too often left myself last on the list of To Do’s. This trip reminded me how important it is to move me up on the list. Thanks for the great writing and the simple way that you seem to capture the spirit of all of us out there! I love reading your blog and look forward to every new entry!

    Thanks Charlotte~

    Glad you took the time to re-fuel!

  2. Marylin Rhoads says:

    My heart lurched when I saw Spokane River and camping. I grew up in the Spokane Valley and the river was a big part of my life. Skipping school (oops) and spending the day on the rocks, riding bikes with my best friend and sunning ourselves on an old dock on the river, feeling the roar of the falls and the spray on my face, rafting down the river, fishing,and on and on. Thanks for the pictures, I felt myself unwind with you. I live in MN now, land of 10,000 lakes and don’t get back very often. Thank you for jogging my memories.


  3. What a lovely wisdom-filled post! Thanks for sharing it. Warmly, Cathy ^..^

  4. Grace~katmom says:

    Oh Rene’,
    So glad you were able to join us for "re-fueling".
    It really was wonderful to have you join us.
    I have sat many an afternoon…"decompressing" at one of the picnic benches near the waters edge,,,,much needed as a California transplant.
    Isn’t it amazing how we can cram 30 hours of "stuff" in a
    24-hour day!?! That’s why taking time (re-fueling) for ourselves is very thereputic.

  5. Paige Orloff says:

    This is such an important post, and I so related! Just a month ago, I had my refueling escape when I went to my 25th high school reunion. The gift of being away from the daily responsibilities of home and kids, and especially being with dear, dear girlfriends: nothing like it. I came home so renewed that my husband was telling friends that I should go away more often (this was the longest I’d ever left my two kids, 4 and nearly 8.) Now I just have to see if I can hold him to it! A next get-together with some of those HS friends is already on the books for next month–I cannot wait. This time, I’m hoping some of them will come to me, to see the natural beauty of the rural place I’m lucky enough to call home. Though I won’t leave my chores behind on this visit, I’ll get to share them with my sister-friends, and I suspect that doing so will cast them in a new light–I’ll let you know!

  6. SusieQ says:

    My life is like holding on to the wagging tail of dog. Once in awhile I just have to let go…. the dog always comes back…..

  7. Kaye says:

    Wow! Can I ever relate to the idea of decompressing for a few days, and recharging my batteries. These days, I tend to head over to Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Mass. I’m a member, so I go several time a year. Being a history buff, it’s great to take that giant step back to a much simpler time, and just bask in the peace and quite. My long-range plan for when I am Finally retired, is to volunteer as a costumed interpreter. For me, the two hour drive would be as nothing to the fun and satistaction of interacting with visators, especially the kids, telling them about the village and it’s time in history. That would be like a perpetual vacation. Ahh! I always feel better when I come back from one of my weekend jaunts to the village.

  8. Cassandra says:

    Thank you Renee! I needed the re-fuel reminder! I have been contemplating how much I want to get away for a few days oh how with all the things to do! You’ve inspired me to just do it!



    I hope you do. I have found that life seems easier with a "full-tank".

  9. Dawn says:

    This completely reflects my previous email to you. I too, am finding it okay, to just "be". Although, I have to be reminded as well! Your writing is lovely. Thank you for the mini mind vacation!

  10. Mickey says:

    Just two weeks ago came back from a rejuvenating hike in the mountain of Cathedral Gorge south of Ely, Nevada. The magic of the entire park is imprinted in my soul forever. The pics can be seen here:

    The wonder of our natural surroundings still un captured by so many people, so many of us have know idea of what our America has to offer, and usuallly for free.

  11. Reba says:

    I just enjoyed two weeks of visiting out west (and MaryJane’s store). Coming from the Southeast where everyone is crowded and homes, much of the time, are side-by-side I realized how small things are in the "vast-ness" of the beautiful views of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho as we drove through. It made me think much about what SEEMS important and what IS important. Like you said, the trip home was harder than I thought it would be. I’m missing it already.

  12. Gary says:

    Beautifully said/written Rene’…
    Your words ring True, and have been echoed throughout the Ages. Reserving (not "taking") time for our Spiritual regeneration, and sharing that time with Family and Friends, is an act that centers all the other parts of our Lives.
    Yes, I can purchase a box and flip a switch and the troubles of the World will flood into my Home, but that doesn’t mean they belong there, and as for the weather report, well it’s right on the other side of my front door ‘eh.
    This time we reserve is the essence of Sabbath, and there is a ancient Jewish saying about Tradition: "When you swap Tradition for "progress", you often wind up with neither."
    GodSpeed to Y’all…!
    in Tampa

    I love that Gary, Thank You!  I think I will stitch it onto a pillow 🙂  thanks for sharing it!

  13. Suzy Lowry Geno says:

    As a writer who also works from my home farm, the wife of a husband whose recently had two major heart attacks, and the chief-operator of this 15 acre homestead, I can totally relate to your analogy about the cart going downhill out of control….I’ve read and reread your experience on the river and I thank you for "taking me there" with you for just a little while via your wonderful writing…Tonight I especially needed to "refuel" and you have helped!!!


    I am glad that my writtings could help a little. We all need refueling from time to time.

  14. lauren says:

    Thank you for sharing and the the photos are great! I could almost hear the rushing of the water! Refueling is exactly what I need! This drove that point home. Blessings from the south, as we both continue to reach our goal of filling our life "tank" with all the right stuff!


  15. Holly says:

    Rene, you are so right. I had the most wonderful time with my girlfriends that weekend! We just had a ball and laughed until we cried, both of which are very healing! The Farmchicks show has become an annual get-away for us and the bonus this year was being able to meet you and Maryjane and the sister’s on the fly group. I left a message at home that night that it was "the best day of my life"!!!!!! getting away and distancing yourself from everyday life makes one appreciate that life even more, for me anyway! Getting away is great, but coming back home, to that cozy little nest, is even better.
    Thank you for your hospitality and for letting us drop in on your camp! It was a joyous visit and a wonderful memory that will always be close to the surface of my heart! thanks for being a part of that!!



    It was a joy to meet you and the girls as well. I hope we will see you at MaryJanesFarm Fair July 3-5th!

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