You may not know how I met my husband, Bob. After his divorce, he took a college course called “Life after Divorce.” I was the teacher. Bob got an A.

That was 44 years ago. Since then, we have experienced many long-term summer phases.

The baking competition at the county fair has threaded its way throughout our lives, with Bob winning 26 award ribbons for his cookies. When he tests cookie recipes, he turns from a sweet, gentle, good-natured soul into a monster.

Once, when I ate one blueberry from his recipe, he roared, “You’ve thrown off everything. Now I have to start from scratch!”

“You take this contest too seriously, honey. When you don’t win, you demand a recount.”

Camping has also threaded its way through our lives. First, we went tent camping. I kvetched, “Bob, this no-TV thing? A nightmare.”

We bought a slide-on truck camper so we could camp with the other 10 billion campers at popular beaches. Slide-ons are metal homes the size of a tick that fit on the back of a pickup truck. A generator powers the TV!

Campers spend their days doing the same thing: nothing.

Well, I’m not being fair. We all do three things.


1. We swat greenhead flies, which don’t die — ever. You could smash them with a sledgehammer, after which they’ll resume biting you.

2. We coat ourselves with 4,000 layers of bug repellant.

3. We put combination locks on food containers so Einstein’s raccoons can’t get in. But raccoons memorize numbers. We upgrade to padlocks, then on to deadbolts. Neither work. Varmints chew through whatever the container’s made of, be it cardboard or concrete.


Kayaking is heaven. Once, when we were far from any town landing, an unexpected, shocking event occurred. The tide went out. We dragged the kayak across a mile of ankle-deep muck.

“Bob,” I grumbled, “you forgot the tide chart.”

“Why is this my responsibility?” he said.

“Because you are a man.”

“Then what am I when I vacuum all the time?”

“A good man.”

While kayaking, my constant worrying ceased. Instead I’d focus on what’s right around me. Present-moment living is the only way to go.

In fact, we kayaked year-round wearing wet suits. These are like spray-painting your body with rubber. Bob looked terrific in his. I looked like the Michelin Tire Man with bosoms.

Bicycling was another thread. We’d bike past cranberry bogs, kettle holes, and saltmarshes.

Once, we biked to a restaurant that had a cemetery across the street. The restaurant’s sign read: “So come on in and have a seat. Sure better here than across the street.”

Since my spinal cord injury, I no longer kayak or go clamming, biking, or camping. So, we’ve turned to gardening. At first, Bob tried growing vegetables, but in spite of trying every animal preventative in the universe, including spraying fox urine, nary a vegetable would grow uneaten by critters.

So instead, we grow a flower garden. It’s right outside our back door. In that paradise, we feel everything we’ve felt before on the many pursuits threaded throughout our lives. And what ties our threads together? Each other, of course.

We don’t take vacations, nor feel the need to. We live in vacation land. There’s no better place to be.

In the joy, maintenance, and creation of the garden, we still find the sustenance of our early pursuits: beauty, wildlife, visitors, peace, and appreciation of all that is truly in our midst.


Nationally syndicated award-winning columnist Saralee Perel can be reached at or via her website:

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