From my living room and front porch I often observe visitors to the Finger Lakes unloading their cars, trucks, or SUVs and carrying the contents into their nearby temporary airbnb getaway. Sometimes it is the reverse order, dragging all the stuff back to their vehicle and reloading. Some are precise and organized while others throw the bags and objects into the open hole and end up pushing and shoving to get the trunk closed. They come from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Florida. Often when they arrive they unfold themselves and stretch as if stiff and sore from long drives, but at the end of their stay their movement is more fluid and energetic.
I watch them as a story-teller, sometimes imaging a tall tale for them — why they have come, what they fled, and how they will meet what they left behind but with a kind of freshness that heals. That is what can happen when we retreat or vacation. We imagine we are “getting away” and what actually happens is that extraneous stuff falls away as we relax and recreate, and then suddenly we can see something we left behind in our normal life with a new perspective.
Sometimes I encounter such visitors from nearby airbnbs or the lakefront hotel as they walk along the lake. Couples holding hands and talking as they leisurely stroll will sometimes pause to greet Rabia as she sits next to me on our lakeside bench. Inevitably they remark on the serenity. It can be gray with a little drizzle or sunny and placid, it doesn’t seem to matter when people “get away.” Suddenly they find themselves breathing slowly again and looking with new eyes at the birds and flowers and horizons they are too busy to see at home.
There is an amusing solidarity I feel when I see a father at the playground with a very small child at 7:00 AM. I imagine the mom getting to sleep-in back at the hotel room as I watch the relatively new dad trying to figure out how to entertain a two-year-old until the agreed upon time.
Last weekend the gates to summer in the Finger Lakes burst open. Locals have to get to the lakefront pretty doggone early or very late in order to have the peace and quiet we’ve been used to since last Labor Day. Even riding a bike along the lakefront can be hazardous at this time of year as people with vacation-head ogle while standing in the middle of the sidewalk with their companions and leave no room to pass. Dog walkers can be a year-round hazard when the human isn’t paying attention and the dog has pulled its lead across the pathway and is either sniffing the grass or waiting to lunge at the bike coming its way.
It seems a pleasant rhythm to me, college students disappearing in May and tourists arriving in force beginning on Memorial Day, only to evaporate by September as the students return. As the activity I observe at the nearby airbnbs reveals, tourism has become a year-round part of Geneva and the Finger Lakes. Yet the density of tourists congeals in the warmth of summer and scatters like flocks of migrating birds come autumn. It is our good fortune that we get to stay all year round.