Last Gasp of Vacation

The end of vacation is bittersweet, of course. It is always hard to reconcile the feeling of being completely relaxed with the imagined pressure of returning full bore into one’s responsibilities. One of the things I’m challenging myself to do this year, though, is to enjoy each nice moment without looking past it toward the next likely challenge.

So here I am, with my wife and stepdaughter safely deposited at the airport, waiting for my later flight in a great independent cafe in Palm Springs. The music and coffee are good. I have a private table with an electrical outlet and a high-speed internet connection. I’ve been able to download some movies and TV shows for my flight later today, and I’m catching up on email.

Palm Springs is one of those places where you can imagine that a large number of residents feel grateful every day for the palm trees, sunshine and mountain views that abound here. We will return next winter, as we did this year, and if we’re lucky, my stepdaughter’s field hockey team will earn an entry into the tournament they hold every Thanksgiving week right up the street from our favorite hotel. It is great fun to think that we would come back here before the end of the year.

In short, I love having a happy experience that I’m likely to repeat in the near future. My wife likes to say that we are creatures of habit, and I guess I would say that she is a creature of habit, but I’m happy to go along when the habits are so entertaining. Palm Desert is great for tennis this time of year, sunny and dry, and I took a lesson yesterday to try to revive my singles game. My instructor, Katie, had a great, easy way of thinking about the game.

Don’t think so much, she told me. It’s a simple game. Get the ball back over the net. She teaches a method that has the following slogan, “Form is not a fundamental.” What it means in the context of tennis is that you are just as likely to be responding to “an emergency situation” as to hit a shot with a perfect setup from a location you expected. Wow, what a life parallel.

In these cases, she says, do your best to get your racket on the ball and try to hang in there for a situation that’s more to your liking. Like all great instruction, and I find this especially from great athletic coaches for some reason, the most useful principles sound like a life philosophy.

So here I am in paradise for a few more hours, seeing my improved forehand approach shot in my mind, loving the bright sunshine on the sides of the Santa Rosa mountains, and thinking that it will be summer soon enough at home.