It’s been nearly a month since I last wrote about our trip to the spa at Lake Austin. I was doing so well, pacing myself almost better than ever before. Then I came to the final twenty-four hours of our trip and I found that I couldn’t go on writing. I simply stopped. I didn’t just stop writing about the trip. I stopped writing about everything. I stopped taking photographs. I stopped going new places and seeing new things. I even stopped my daily morning walks. I merely did enough to get through the laundry, the meals, the dishes, and taking care of the kids. Most of the time I spent doing those things involved stepping over a hundred-and-one different toys, coloring books, and crayons. Even my tomato garden withered away to barely anything, becoming spindly and wilted in the too-hot days of July.
Of course, there are always things that go on in my life that I’ll never commit to paper—virtual or otherwise—and writing about the end of our trip certainly wasn’t the catalyst for all my wheels grinding to a virtual standstill. I am sure, after a couple of weeks of thought and consideration, that I know which spark ignited my mental book of matches, and I am grateful that I was able to put the fire out before the whole pack burned. The final retelling the last days of our trip was simply the first casualty of that miniature blaze.
Here I am, though, back. It took some time to get here after that minor slump in confidence, drive, and determination. First I had to start walking again, and then I had to actually start putting away the laundry that I was folding. The tomatoes came next, followed by the petunias that were simply swept off of the front porch, for they were more pathetic than the tomatoes had become. I made a new recipe—peach cake—which I photographed, though I must admit that I haven’t looked at the shots yet as I wasn’t happy with them as I was shooting. But it’s a start.
Now, here I am, ready to finish what I started. Ready to tell of those final hours in Austin—not that there is much to say about them, for they were fairly typical to the end of any great trip. What I have to keep telling myself, as the days have now stretched out from being merely a few to numbering almost sixty, is that this was not the end…it was merely an end.
Prior posts about the trip to Lake Austin Spa Resort can be found here.
After leaving the book release reception, Cheryl and I headed to dinner: goat cheese ravioli for me, some sort of salad topped with chicken and shrimp for her and a vanilla bean cupcake with peanut butter frosting for each of us.
“How is it?” the gentleman celebrating his anniversary with his wife asked us from the next table over.
“A little dry,” I admitted.
“Spa food,” he said knowingly.
“The frosting is good,” I shrugged.
Then Cheryl and I took our to-go-cup sangrias and our newly signed, not even released to the general public copies of Wallflower in Bloom to the pair of hammocks located near the yoga deck, and we read. We read until there was no longer enough daylight left to read by at which time we moved to the lounge chairs by the main pool and read there all the while sipping sangria through a straw. When it became too difficult to read outside, we went back to our room and read more there. Poor Cheryl fell asleep with Claire’s book in her hand. I stayed up long enough to get through the part of the book set at the spa—I mean, I had to read that part at the spa itself, you know—and then turned in for the night.
Sunday, June 2
The Last Day
The next day was like every last day of a trip anywhere for me. I packed my things early in the morning, quadruple checking to make sure that I hadn’t left anything behind. We went to breakfast—blueberry cornmeal pancakes (tiny, little things that I have seriously considered trying to replicate in my own kitchen), bacon, and eggs. After breakfast, we got ready for the 3-mile hike that we were going to take at nine that morning only to discover that the hike was at eight not nine. So we went back to our room and changed into our bathing suits and went swimming instead. I was a little disappointed about the hike, but I love playing around in the pool, so that wasn’t a loss by any means.
Then, like that, it was over. We went back to our room, took showers, cleaned up, and checked out. Even though we weren’t leaving for another two and a half hours for our flight, we’d still be at the spa and able to enjoy everything except our room because—you know—it’d no longer be our room, it still felt like everything was coming to a close. It was like finishing a book that you love…bittersweet.
Once we stowed our luggage at the front desk, we did one more turn about the property, taking pictures that we hadn’t taken before, trying to soak up everything that in just a few short hours we’d be leaving behind.
As we were leaving the spa area of the resort, we bumped into two ladies dressed in robes and sandals who in their own way were quite clearly doing the same thing we were. We chatted for a few minutes, learning that they’d received gift certificates to the spa from their employer, and they were just as in awe of everything there as we’d been.
One of the last photos I took that morning was one that I’d thought about during my early morning rest in the hammock. It’s become my favorite photo of the trip. In the end, though, it isn’t the actual photo itself, it’s the changes I made to it, turning it from crystal clear reality to a drawing—isn’t Photoshop wonderful sometimes?
I think that it’s better this way, more representative of the whole surreal reality—our personal trip through the looking glass, just without the mushrooms, caterpillars, and hookahs.
We ate our final lunch—bison burgers for each of us. It wasn’t quite as good as the one I had eaten on Friday, a bit drier. And then we finished with some frozen yogurt. I know I have the kind written in my notes somewhere, but the simple truth is that I really don’t want to wander upstairs to retrieve them because, in the end, it isn’t really important what the flavor of the fro-yo was. The importance is that it was the last of it.
After lunch, we wandered the resort gift shop a bit more, then we went to sit in the garden library, and we finally stopped in the room across from the reception desk—a room we’d not visited during the entire trip, one whose name I never learned. It was here that we spent our last half an hour at the spa. I’m not sure what Cheryl was doing during that time– sitting, looking, thinking. Maybe she was reading. Maybe she was checking her cell phone. We were side-by-side, sitting on the same couch in the same room of the same resort, but we were miles apart in those moments. I was on the edge of the couch, waiting to see the driver who would take us back to the airport, alternating between tapping notes into my Nook and asking Cheryl inane questions, such as, “What did you have for lunch the first day we were here?”
Then, like that, the driver was there and we were climbing into the backseat of a black SUV. We must have returned to the airport using a different route. I recognized some of the things we’d passed just two days earlier, but I didn’t remember seeing overpasses emblazoned with giant stars when we’d arrived on Friday. Now that we were leaving, there were signs of Texas everywhere, flags and stars on every other building, every other bridge. The drive was pleasant, the driver nice, and forty-five minutes after we’d climbed into the SUV, we were climbing out in front of the airport.
We checked Cheryl’s bag, went through security, and then located a small shop where we bought snacks and I picked up a magnet and a light-up pen for boy to add to the ever-growing collection. Then we waited for the plane, which was oversold. The gate attendant repeatedly offered overnight accommodations, a first-class ticket for the next day, and a six-hundred dollar, non-expiring, roundtrip ticket to anywhere in the US if someone would give up his or her seat. No takers. Cheryl, obviously pretending to be the devil on my shoulder, kept whispering, “First class, Mich. First class plus a ticket to anywhere you want to go.” And, you know, if boy and B hadn’t been in Charlotte waiting for me to arrive home, I very well may have done it. But they were waiting for me, and for that I didn’t have to make the choice, because, really, in the end there was no real choice.
The plane trip was an exercise in mental control for me. Our seats had no window to speak of, and claustrophobia kicked in with full force; however, I fought it off as best as I could, choosing to focus on the new National Geographic that had downloaded the day before—I love getting magazines as much on my Nook as I do in the mail. I even relaxed enough to accept a Diet Coke from the flight attendant—something I’ve never done before for fear that I’ll have to find the restroom on the airplane. Of course, by that point, I was so thirsty that I was looking forward to her trip down the aisle with the refreshment cart. Eventually, we arrived in Charlotte and the woman in front of us opened her window enough so that I could barely make out a sliver of the city if I scrunched down and looked through the crack between her seat and the side of the plane. I gulped in the light and open space as if I hadn’t seen sun in days. I needed that window.
Then we landed, disembarked, waited for my bag, and searched for the baggage claim to get Cheryl’s bag where we found her husband and her boys—two of whom almost knocked her off of her feet with their hugs. Mere minutes later, I was climbing into my husband’s car, waving goodbye.
“Are you hungry?” my husband asked, pulling onto the road leading away from the airport.
“Starving,” I said.
“There’s an Arby’s on the way back to the hotel,” he said.
And I began to laugh so hard that the tears trickled down my face.
“Do you think they serve Bison?”