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Washington Voices

Front Porch: Escaping or not, just get away

Thu., July 10, 2014, midnight

Today I feel compelled to give some advice: Get out of town.

No really, do it. It doesn’t have to be for long and it doesn’t have to be far or expensive. Just go.

Come on into Spokane for an afternoon and maybe just walk around Riverfront Park. In Spokane already? Leave, and go somewhere else. Just move yourself from wherever you are to at least 30 or 40 miles from home (farther away, if possible) and stop and look around or stroll down a path or downtown area you haven’t traveled before. Or maybe partake in some community event somewhere else that you normally wouldn’t do.

I’ve always known – as I think probably everyone does – that a little change of scenery can be good for a person. New perspective, new stimuli, a refreshing change of pace – all of that. But I’d forgotten how really good it feels in small but important ways.

Back when my father-in-law lived with us, it was really, really important. He’d had a wall-banger of a stroke, and we moved him in with us. We had one son in college and another one in high school at the time, so we were still involved in active parenting and working at our respective jobs. We were able to have a caregiver at the house with Gramps during the day Mondays through Fridays, and we were on duty the rest of the time. Bruce took care of all of Gramps’ physical needs and invented and crafted systems and devices that made life easier for his father. I handled the medications, cooking and took care of my father-in-law’s bills.

It was this way until Gramps died a few years later. Our saving grace during those years was when Bruce’s sister would come over from Wenatchee and spend the weekend with her father. Her son lived in Spokane and would provide her backup when he wasn’t out of town (he worked for the railroad). And then we’d get out of Dodge.

Sometimes we’d have two nights away, sometimes one. Usually, we stuck around close to home, just in case, since Gramps could get agitated when Bruce wasn’t nearby. We’d go wherever we could and partake in whatever was going on there. Often we’d find a motel in Post Falls or Coeur d’Alene – near yet far enough away to feel like we’d actually gone away. One weekend away, I went with Bruce to a gun show. I hate gun shows, but I was actually intrigued by what I found going on there, and that surprised me. Another time Bruce went with me to a quilt exhibit – not his first choice, but that’s what was happening where we were, so that’s what we did.

As we drove away from our house and I looked at my husband, it was almost as if his pores relaxed the farther we got from home. I swear he looked 10 years younger by the time we got to our destination. And as we drove home, I could see him tightening again, bracing for whatever might be awaiting us when we walked through the door. And there almost always was something to face since Gramps didn’t take change well. But no matter what, my sister-in-law championed through and gave us the time we needed away.

That was quite some time ago. Sure, we’ve had vacations and taken little day trips since, but the recuperative value of getting away and getting outside our normal routines had kind of escaped me. Until a few weeks ago.

My husband had a job to do out in the country in Idaho, about an hour’s drive from home, and he asked if I wanted to come along. I had a pretty open day that day, so off we went. While he worked nearby, I found myself standing at the edge of a mountain meadow. It sloped downward toward a lake and was filled with grasses and some ferns and was bordered by tall pine and fir trees. And to make the scene complete, a deer scooted back into the trees upon seeing me, while a lovely breeze cooled my skin.

A beautiful scene. But what caught my eye particularly were the tiny fir trees that were beginning their life at the edge of the clearing. They had that beautiful pale green new growth at the tips of their branches, set against the darker green of last year’s growth. Some had more new growth, some less, but they just glistened as they were grouped there together competing for the same sunlight and moisture.

I got lost in looking at them, and my mind wandered to other beautiful days, children growing up, the glory of the outdoors and so many of the nice things in life. Sure, I still limped back to the truck with my gimpy knee and got a good twinge when I torqued it on the uneven ground, but that didn’t matter. I had gotten very outside myself – and was refreshed.

As singer/songwriter Neil Diamond put it: “When you’re on a merry-go-round, you miss a lot of the scenery.”

Step off. Get out of town. And let it happen.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by email at Previous columns are available at

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