“It sounds like this trip is a soul refresher,” my niece Nancy wrote me after she learned of my vacation plans to visit her cousin Tomi Sue. My week away from New York City was a refreshing and invigorating experience. It was a time to put working to be a leader aside and focus on being surrounded by nature and enjoying my life.
Tomi Sue lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, about 2½ hours due east of Oakland, California. The population of the towns there are small by any—but especially NYC—standards: 150 to 1,000 to 6,000 (one of the largest) all nestled among oak, pine, and other trees. It was just the locale I needed to get refreshment after a long, snowy, and busy winter in the big city.
Spring had arrived and I basked in the sun while looking at the fields of wild flowers carpeting the five acres of Tomi Sue’s land—and beyond—such as goldfield, buttercup, etc. What especially caught my attention were the poppies, the California state flower and a favorite since I was taught a poem in childhood, “Poppy golden poppy, shining in the sun….”
The petals of poppies are closed in the morning and open as the sun rises. While watching for the poppies to open, I could look out “across the street” and watch the cows and a bull or two begin their day feeding on the grass of a pasture. A big ear jack rabbit caught my—and Tomi Sue’s dog’s—attention. Birds were serenading the earth and calling me to get up and go for a walk on the grounds—which meant I had to say good-bye to the cat and could say hello to the resident horse.
Later, sitting on the porch and basking in the sun, I felt the stress from the life of a New Yorker begin to gradually fade away. It was helped to evaporate by a trip to Yosemite National Park, my favorite place to visit and explore. My older sisters took their younger sisters on trips there when I was about eight or nine. Through the years, I’ve returned to Yosemite with college friends, my husband, and even alone. A car trip to the valley at 4,000 feet or Glacier Point at 7,200 feet or a strenuous backpacking trip close but not to the top of Half Dome at 8,800 feet brought a sense of peace and tranquility.
“Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike,” John Muir is quoted in National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Dayton Duncan, a book based on the Ken Burns’ six-part series for PBS. Yosemite is my place of beauty.
On a Sunday, Tomi Sue and I spent time in Yosemite to hike up part of a trail to see a waterfall she had heard about but not seen. Although not in the shape I was when I could hike to the top of that trail and back down in one day, I nevertheless made it to the spot where we could see Illoyette Falls—and on our way look back to see Yosemite Falls.
During the rest of my stay in the foothills, I was able to soak up the scenery and refresh my soul with the green of the land, the friendliness of the people, and the vistas of snow covered mountains. My phone service only worked in a few areas and my data didn’t download—which was okay by me. Only checking e-mail at Tomi Sue’s office a few times, I felt released and relaxed.
Today, I’m sitting at my desk, looking at my computer screen, and writing this entry to share with you some details of my vacation while also preserving my memories. Now, getting back to working to be a leader, I am putting on my coach’s hat to ask you: Is it time for you to take a vacation? If not poppies, what will you take time to watch? And, most importantly, how will you refresh your soul?