Thursday, September 9, 2010

Calm Before the Storm

Before I went in for my scans last week, we decided to get away. The anticipation of everything about to happen at times takes a toll. We're both home on medical leave and though I love our home, it's not so easy to relax here all the time. We needed a place away from the stack of medical bills and claims we are supposed to be going through, away from the laundry and cleaning, away from the stacks of reading material about "preparing for your transplant" or "living with cancer" and all the paperwork we are supposed to be filling out. I think this picture says it all. You can tell I've totally got things under control. Me vs. the glacial erratic.

We dug out a gift certificate we had been holding onto, decided on New Hampshire and picked a place in the lakes region: A Newfound Bed & Breakfast in Bristol, New Hampshire. I love New Hampshire. "Live Free or Die" ... right on. I went to college at the University of New Hampshire on the seacoast and have a special place in my heart for the state. Now the modest Newfound Lake has its own special spot.

Our room had huge windows with breathtaking views of both the lake and the vast mountains in the background. It was stunning to wake up to. It was humbling to watch the sun set into the ridgeline from the jacuzzi in our room. It was awe inspiring to marvel at the expanse of stars and wish on the shooting ones from the reclining chairs on the porch off our room.

We had just two nights and two days free with no appointments and knew that we had to take advantage. We were the only ones staying at the b & b and had run of the place. The best part? So did Sammy. She came along for the trip as well. The make or break b & b choice was that it was dog friendly. She was free to wander the house and chill on the porch with us at breakfast time. We wanted to show her a good time before we have to be without her for so many weeks (months?).

The innkeeper, Sondra, was phenomenal. She is a hip woman, I'd guess in her 40s, with a stylish asymetrical bob and a tattoo of a delicate fairy, which stretched from the nape of her neck to her shoulder blades. She was incredibly laid back and easy to get along with. We connected immediately. She lives in a converted red barn on the property but as it was mid-week she slept at her boyfriend's house – now that her kids were all in college, that was the arrangement they worked out, she explained. So we literally had the "compound" to ourselves.

She'd be back in the mornings to wake us with ridiculously amazing breakfasts. Lemon poppy seed muffin swimming in a orgasmic berry smoosh and crisped at the top to perfection, grilled bacon, warm bread pudding with a berry compote (fresh picked from the property), eggs benedict layered over whole grain English muffins with a sweet raspberry jam, garden fresh veggies omelettes with eggs from her chickens on the property and toast with a selection of spreads from homemade pumpkin butter to strawberry rhubarb jam. Let's just say we ate well. And it was all outside on the porch overlooking the scenery on beautifully warm summer mornings.

Though we were only away for two days it was a good taste of bliss and a perfect counter to the sterile, mundane routine of medical appointments and treatments that have been dictating our calendar.
The first day was spent kayaking in Newfound Lake – the fourth cleanest lake in the world (who knew?!) We brought Sammy with the bright idea of trying to get her to ride in the kayaks with us. Not so much. That girl just loves her freedom too much. We tried about a dozen times to get her to ride with us but at the first slip of a wet paw, which rocked the kayak, she was out of there.

Luckily, we had the foresight to buy her a doggy life jacket so that she wouldn't drown with excitement. As predicted she continually jumped ship and just wanted to swim next to us – swim her hardest to keep up regardless of how tired she was. She loves swimming so much she'd probably do it until she sunk. Just like chasing the tennis ball ... . We found a fantastic sandbar that she could bound around on leaving a huge wake behind her to give her doggy paddle a break for a while. Much of the day was spent "docked" here as we watched her beeline for duck after duck through the shallow water.

We brought back wet, muddy, exhausted Sammy to let her nap in the AC while we headed further North to the "Castle in the Clouds" in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, the turn-of-the-century homestead and property of a quirky, 5-foot tall millionaire and his 6-foot tall wife. Not that we saw all of them, but the 5,500 acres of the property were stunning and play host to 45 miles of hiking trails. My crappy endurance limited us to only part of one of the trails but we chose the one where we got to take in the beauty of the waterfalls from above. A trolley driven by a man that takes his job very seriously, calling into "dispatch" after every 15-minute loop he does all day long, took us up to the estate where we took in the "270 degree" views of NH mountains and lakes.

We got to tour the inside of the estate. The rooms were all staged with some of Tom and Olive Plant's shoes, books, grooming tools and skivvies and lots of dusty, plastic food replicas to make it look like they had just stepped away from the dinner table. Historic homes don't exactly do it for me. When I leave a place like that I tend to feel like I'm covered in a dusty film of sepia. I was much more taken in by the view and the property than the yellowed doilies, but to each his own.

Dinner was a chunky lobster roll with the perfect mayo slather and just enough celery crunch. We dined barefoot at a tiki bar picnic table overlooking the majestic Lake Winnepausaukee before heading back to the b & b to stare at the stars with a cup a tea then an 8-inch tall slice of layered strawberry ganache cake Sondra had baked for us. Did I mention that I gained back every one of the 10 pounds I lost during my last transplant? Per doctor orders, I'm packing on the fat reserves to live off of when I'm unable to eat again. Let me eat cake!

Day two we headed out to explore with the kayaks minus the furry excitement ball choosing to paddle on Lake Squam – the same lake on which the Katharine Hepburn movie On Golden Pond was filmed. Sondra offered to have her hang out with her and her dogs for the day. In fact, on our way back that evening we passed her in her pick-up truck with Sammy, her chocolate lab and her beagle mix with tongues out lined up along the seat next to her. They were on their way to a lake swim.

The views were equally stunning. I love being in the kayak because it allows you to explore the nooks. It allows you to pull over on a hidden beach and jump in for a cool swim, key in the 90 degree weather. A post-kayak coconut milkshake helped to cool the core as well ... for medicinal purposes, of course.

Mid afternoon set in and it was time to leave our bucolic escape behind and prepare for our trek to the concrete jungle that is NYC the next morning.

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