Friday, April 13, 2012

"Year-round vacation house"? If only....

I couldn’t help smiling as I read the real estate listing that arrived by email earlier this week:
Vacation year round on Annursnac Hill. …Sun-filled and well maintained 10RM,4BR,2.5BA brings the outdoor in w/beautiful wooded & seasonal pond views. Open flr plan offering cathedral ceilings & skylights in almost every room…Rights to Annursnac Hill Assoc w/swimming pool,4 tennis courts & trails through 14 acre conservation land.
What a promise, I thought. Vacation year-round.

And what a paradox.

Because as we all know, it doesn’t really work like that.

Even if you live in a year-round vacation house, if it’s your own full-time house, there are distinctly un-vacation-like things that must be done. Housework, for starters: floors to sweep, counters to wipe, beds to make.

Also meals to be prepared and groceries to buy. But it’s not just housework that distinguishes a vacation house from a year-round house. More than any architecture, any skylights or water views or proximity to ski areas, it’s the daily schedule you maintain when you live there. A job to go off to, or to do at home, every day. Clients or bosses whose requests must be met. Dentist appointments. Car maintenance. Friends to whom you owe a dinner invitation, even if having to plan a company menu doesn’t make you feel at all like you’re in a vacation house, no matter how airy the kitchen or how many wildflower meadows you can see from the window above the sink.

I often remind myself that I live in a house that could be a vacation home, with its many skylights and views into the woods; and I live in a community that many would consider a retreat from the everyday world, one in which open spaces abound and quiet roads lead to tranquil ponds or conservation areas. From my front door, I can bike to any number of scenic New England settings; from my back door, I can access a trail system into nearly one thousand acres of state parkland.

And I try not to let the opportunities therein go unrealized. In the fall, I do a lot of biking; in the winter I snowshoe; year-round I take walks, both in the woods and through our neighborhood.

But, of course, I have all those non-vacation tasks to fit in every day as well: making meals for people, sorting the mail, going to parent-teacher conferences.

I wonder if whoever buys the house for which I received the ad will treat their new home like a vacation house. Will they notice the views and the breezes? Or will it just be, well, their house, and not so different from how its residents see it than any other house?

No one can be on vacation all the time. When my kids were young, they had a Dr. Seuss book that takes place in a magical land where it’s your birthday every day. It didn’t take Tim long to see the paradox therein: if it’s always your birthday, it might as well never be your birthday.

So too with vacation houses. By definition, no one can actually live every day in a vacation house. But you can try to put a little bit of vacation into everyday life. You can admire the views. You can breathe in the breeze. You can go for a walk.

And once in a while, you can leave the dishes ‘til the next day.

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