If the Spanish word for cow is vaca, what is the etymology of vacation?

02 Mar

In a fog, and this might be the effects of being on vacation. One is meant, when one vacates one’s premises, responsibilities, and community rhythms, to refill the void thus created. Go for a this, try that, get this or that done, but no real work, nothing essential, and most importantly, have fun. And having a family (or partial family) vacation is meant to draw everyone closer together like being in the grit of real life never can. One has worked and saved and booked the rooms and flights and amusement facility tickets, doubled efforts to get all the vacation week’s chores done ahead, and briefed the temp workers who will hold down the fort meanwhile.

Then one packs and heads east, or west, whatever is deemed best by the man in charge, or woman in charge. Who of course asked one’s opinion, but there were certain correct answers and somehow it all came down to those choices, and among those you don’t care much any more. Isn’t it enough that it’s a vacation? It’s been so long. We’ll have a great time, honey. No separate vacations for us.

One arrives and settles in, then goes grocery shopping. Except this time it’s a special occasion and one is supposed to care less about price and quality and diet and more about making sure this is food fit for a vacation. More red meat, perhaps, and a small set of gourmet spices to go with the salmon. Then one sets the table and cooks it. One does not dwell on the awareness that there are some other couples who share domestic tasks, even on vacation, all other things being equal.

One enjoys a meal with the other vacationing couple, and then dang it if the men don’t go off to read their books and there are the dishes to clear and wash. Because among certain kinds of menfolk, old habits die hard. But these habits are close together on the allele with other good diehard characteristics, so one shouldn’t complain. And in this case the womenfolk don’t get paid anything much for their daily work, so why not have them have a slightly less vacant evening for their part?

The main thing is to get tired enough by the end of the day to sleep well. Because weed is not yet legal in the state of Idaho, even for sleep aid, though the fellow in the orange house across town makes a good herbal mix with organic coconut one could try. Especially anyone who hasn’t slept more than five hours a night for months. Its no wonder, with a naturally fiery temper and sense of justice, that such a one said he would have punched the #$%&ing crap out of the band leader in the movie “Whiplash” if he treated him that way.

One’s digestion is, too, somewhat on vacation. Not enough stress and exercise and routine and plain food to keep things moving.

The pillows are good at the condo, though, and there’s no television in the bedroom, a nice change from the hotel. The mountains are lovely, softly folded and interrupted by ridges of sharp outcrops, divided by creases full of trees and snow. Textured like the scalp of a young black boy with closely cropped curls, all faded to washed out blue-greens and yellow-browns.

Tomorrow the river is the destination–a blue, babbling, stony river only a few feet deep meandering between the feet of the hills and the highway. The strongest color around, that blue, next to the snowy banks. There are reputed to be moose there, and likely magpies. Hoping to catch a little wildness, as everything else in the landscape has been tamed and trained into the service of the tourist industry and the pleasure of well-to-do retirees.

They have creased, leather faces and season passes to the slopes. And why should I think their faces don’t have the same beauty as that Amerindian woman with the homespun and woven alpaca headdress in red and blues? Why indeed–I am awash with unjust prejudice. Is it anyone’s fault that some have earned strength and beauty with useful work out of doors, and others through taking ski vacations or retiring into sunshine with their nest egg?

I’m already feeling the yearning to get back to my work, however I sometimes complain about it. Spring is coming and it’s time to get the potatoes and new apple tree planted. I want to get those chairs finished and reupholstered, and see if someone can’t improve my design for an addition to our little house. Because I want my son to have a room to set up a drum kit, and I want a sewing space and a place to lay out a puzzle for the family.

I want to see about getting my boy into the best college we can, figuring out how to get my youngest a drive back and forth to some kind of athletics training, helping my daughter through her cold virus, and the other daughter adjust to the pace and expectations of her community college classes..

For the next three days I’ll try to be a good vacationer, going skiing with my husband, hiking and sketching by the river with my son, and trying to spot a few movie stars at the lodge. I’m sure there are important things for me to accomplish and experience here, too. But for now I feel a bit like a grazing cow that looks up stupidly now and then and slowly follows the herd across the fenced-up pasture.


Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Places & Experiences


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4 responses to “If the Spanish word for cow is vaca, what is the etymology of vacation?

  1. jdawgsrunningblog

    March 3, 2015 at 5:37 am

    Are you in Park City? Sounds like a great trip!

    • toesinthedirt

      March 3, 2015 at 9:20 am

      Sun Valley–oops I meant Idaho–where friends of ours have rented a condo. It is beautiful–plan to watch our friend fish, and do some sketching with my son along the river.

      • jdawgsrunningblog

        March 4, 2015 at 5:36 am

        Great collection of essays ruminating on such—My Story as Told by Water–by David James Duncan

      • toesinthedirt

        March 4, 2015 at 1:40 pm

        Thanks–I’ll look it up.


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