Words to Travel By

The Vacation
By Wendell Berry

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

Mona Lisa is back there somewhere
Mona Lisa is back there somewhere

My wife, Sarah, pointed out that this month is national poetry appreciation month in the US. Which does not mean a great deal to me, because I’m not the biggest fan of poetry, but she was excited. In honor of the month she was determined to find a poem that I would like and by happenstance she did. I really enjoyed this poem when she read it aloud to me and it struck a cord because I can think of people who have spent their time on a trip seemingly only looking through a viewfinder or with their nose in the guidebooks. They don’t seem to take time to appreciate what is around and to soak in the atmosphere. I like to think that Sarah and I are different when we travel. I can even recall several times where we got so enraptured being in a place that we forgot to even take pictures. We would just drink in the sights and sounds oblivious to the camera in our bag.

Wonderful view of Killarney National Park
Wonderful view of Killarney National Park

One such time was on our trip through Ireland. I was driving up a mountain through Killarney National Park hurrying to get to Cork before it got dark. However, near the top we came to a clearing and the whole expanse of the park came into view. It was probably one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen in my short time on this earth. I pulled over to just stare out on this lush green landscape, the sun low in the sky, lighting up the pools and rivers running through the valley. I pulled out our camera and snapped a few shots, but I knew that there was no way that it was going to capture what I was seeing or feeling. So, I put it away again and took in as much as I could, willing myself to remember what it was like to be there on top of the mountain. To this day I can recall seeing the clearing open up while I was driving and the feeling of sublimity I had standing there. When I go through the pictures of that trip, the photo of the valley always brings a smile to my face, not because it helps me remember that view, but because it reminds me that best moments in life can’t be captured by equipment alone.

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