Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Physics Of A Weekend Away

We had this little family vacation. Just a weekend away. We went to the mountains to hang around in a cabin with some friends and play in the snow. It was, and has been for ten years, an exercise in potential energy for me. I learned about this concept way back in high school, when I was still capable of absorbing new information. It has a lot to do with that Newton guy who believed that an object at rest tended to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force. Only in my case, I tend to stay at home unless acted upon by my wife. I will most gladly pursue as little activity as I can get away with on any given weekend, until that moment that the pendulum has reached its furthest point from equilibrium. It was time to get up off the couch and interact with the world.
But first we had to drive. We drove for more than two hours, which took me neatly out of my comfort zone and put me squarely in a place where I had visited several times before, but had to lug bags of groceries and changes of clothes in order to achieve a relative level of calm. My little family had their own room. It was our oasis in the frozen Sierra. I never even bothered to fully unpack my bag because I knew that it would soon be Sunday, and we would head back down those same stairs and load everything back into the car and drive again.
Only this time we would be heading in the opposite direction. We would be going home. This is often the time that my wife takes advantage of that corollary that suggests that an object in motion tends to stay in motion by asking me about the next trip. But I knew that when I got there, I would need to take those carelessly wadded socks and sweatshirts and put them into the laundry. It's part of the deal. We weren't gone long enough to have to wash the clothes we took, and we are still not wealthy enough to simply leave the clothes that we dragged along in the drawers for the next unsuspecting guest.
And we brought home a bonus: Instead of groceries, we lugged a plastic bag full of compost, generated by four families and their teenaged offspring. The load felt lighter, and we were headed downhill. Still, I felt tired as the miles rolled by. I knew the next day would a return to pattern. All of that kinetic energy would be turned once again into potential. Another potential vacation. But not until I get some rest first.

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