Vacation Season is coming to an end again, leaving us poorer, happier and (hopefully) a bit less stressed. It’s amazing how much of the rest of our lives are spent preparing for or dwelling on those limited interludes of time. And during each holiday, whether it’s in the mountains, at an amusement park or on the beach, someone always muses, “I wonder what it’s like living here.” Of course, the speaker is shouted down by a chorus of “If you lived here, it wouldn’t be special” and “money flows through this place, it doesn’t stay here” (both of which are true) but what the speaker means is, “What would life be like if you were permanently on vacation?” That is something we all wonder about. What would it be like to live in a beautiful place with enough money to pay for your needs? According to Anne Rivers Siddons (one of my favorite novelists) a vacation lifestyle will still cost too much in the end.
In Low Country, Caro Venable seems to have hit vacation life nirvana. As the heiress of Peacock island ( a sunchaser’s paradise with an army of flora and fauna) off the Carolina coast and the wife of a real estate mogul, she lives the kind of life vacationers drool over. Her husband, Clay, develops pockets of rarefied real estate into gated resort communities and his first development encompassed the ocean side of their island. The company’s done well, their marriage is good and Caro has more material assets than most of us can imagine. So why is this woman so sad?
The death of her daughter accounts for a good part of the answer but that’s not the only reason Caro drinks too much. Caro knows the success of her husband’s company is driven by the soul-consuming work of her husband’s executives whose spouses must be willing to sublimate their own ambitions and needs. Part of Caro’s responsibility has been to ease the “company wives” (for the company is primarily men) into accepting this subservient position. Caro doesn’t like this any more than she likes her life as a dilettante but she accepts that as part of an unspoken truce. As long as Caro can be left to her grief, art and liquor on the undeveloped part of the island, her husband can have the rest. Then something upsets the truce.
A financial disaster puts the business on the ropes and Clay believes the only way out is to develop the remaining portion of the island, home to generations of wildlife and Gullah families. Development would give him the capital to recapture and keep his success but it would ruin the wildlands Caro holds dear. Eventually Caro has to choose between saving her husband’s dreams or her own and decide what she’s willing to sacrifice . She has to end her isolated life of vacation.
Perhaps that’s why leisure time has great meaning for us, those days of our “fun in the sun”. The days of decreased responsibility and care are precious to us because they are few. As unattractive as work may seem at times, it still lends a sense of purpose and structure to our days as well as a paycheck. Our species thrives on priorities and structure. We love vacation but we need work.
So, I hope you’ve enjoyed some holiday time this summer and if you haven’t I hope you’ll see some soon. Send me snaps of you and your family and friends on the rides or in the park, wherever you like to play. It’s good to have a holiday. Then send me tales of your regular life, the one filled with alarm clocks, schedules and 9-5 jobs. More than a pleasant vacation, I hope you enjoy your work.