Red-Feather-wide
Mother was an English teacher and Father, a vice principal in the Philly school system. Every summer, they had two-and-a-half months off to enjoy the cool aquamarine waters off the southern Florida Coast. The four of us — Mom, Dad, only brother Jeffy and I — would pile into our beige station wagon, the rear section made into a comfy, quilt-covered bed outfitted with toys, puzzles and stuffed animals, and head for Miami Beach. We’d stay at a villa amid beautifully browned Cuban children and their parents, learning enough Spanish to win smiles and trust.

Despite the occasional coruscating glimmers of ’50s charm and stability emanating from the past, I have grown into a single hermitess, content to spend spring break on a “staycation” in the sanctuary of my home.

It is natural in our culture to long for the other side of the fence. If we live in a deciduous, winter-laden state, we crave the swaying palms of the tropics. Ram Dass mentions in a recorded lecture that happiness is never quite where we expect it to be. We believe that if only certain conditions were fulfilled, we could be happy. We plan a beautiful island getaway, fly there, rent a car, and the vehicle breaks down. We think our happiness lies somewhere else, yet it is better to allow happiness right here, wherever we find ourselves.

My fourth-floor apartment in Burnsville has a balcony perched above sparkling spruces and rolling hills. This morning, I open its door to moist, fragrant, delicious air that wafts by after a night’s rain. Clouds open on a deepening blue-lace-agate sky, and multiple bird songs herald the first spring day. There’s a Solar Eclipse and New Moon in Pisces; everywhere are messages of new beginnings. I have an entire week off from teaching — spring break — in which to recreate my life.

Unstructured time is my ideal vacation. I have so many ideas and dreams. Peace and quiet are, for me, paradisiacal. I can hear my own thoughts. I’m working on my second book, so I need to tap into the consciousness that allows access to the Guides. The prose will then flow like a rippling creek. I want to do artwork but lack studio space. I remember that in the bedroom is a large picture window for inspiration. I’ll reconfigure furniture and books. A bookshelf will fit in the closet with the doors kept open. The ideal work space will be a creation itself.

I was one of those geeky girls who always had a book in her hand. To this day, I keep a clay pot or two filled with bookmarkers, although usually there is little extra time to read. As a composition and literature instructor, there are stacks of papers, projects and journals that compel my attention. Now I’m in possession of the absolute luxury of being able to read or watch movies — free of guilt. This is bliss!

When I was young, my dad would take me to the annual teachers’ convention. I loved this event. It was held in a great hall lined with intriguing exhibitors who offered tons of freebees. Among them was a poster my dad let me keep, featuring a contour drawing of a little cartoon man seated on a stool, hunched over a bit, with a plain canary yellow background. It was a Thurber cartoon, and the caption read, “Sometimes I just sits and thinks, and sometimes, I just sits.”

That is the essence, folks. Some people value action and adventure; others treasure the imagination. I am happy and fulfilled at times just to sit and think in my leather chair. Cedric used to remind me, “It takes intelligence to live alone.” Indeed, I can spend vast hours by myself, thoroughly happy and without anxiety. I believe if one has any degree of imagination, it is easy to go on retreat without spending a dime or consulting an itinerary. I light Celestial incense, pour a cup of chamomile and lavender tea, and settle in. From my humble nest, I can witness beautiful sunrises and sunsets and travel wherever my mind takes me.

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Janet Michele Red Feather
Janet Michele Red Feather, J.D., M.A., has taught literature and composition for 18 years at the university, state, tribal and community college levels. She is currently a tenured English Faculty member at Normandale Community College. Janet enjoys her role as Ceremonial Singer for Native American ceremonies, singing traditional songs in Mandan and Lakota. She made a career shift into teaching after serving nearly eight years as a defense litigator in California. Her life changed significantly after she traveled to North Dakota in 1993 to fast and pray for a way of life. She welcomes correspondence at JanetRedFeather77@gmail.com.

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