Rosario Resort & Spa to use their indoor and outdoor swimming pools, sauna and hot tubs. Rosario is probably the most mainstream form of indulgence this Island has to offer, minus the high-end yoga classes in Eastsound. It's an incredibly beautiful estate, with lots of design details still intact from the Arts and Crafts-era. When the shipbuilding tycoon Robert Moran was told, while living in Seattle in his early 40s, that he was suffering from "organic heart disease" and only had a few years left to live, he retreated to the San Juan Islands and began work on the massive estate that now serves as the Resort's main attraction. Moran owned over 7,000 acres of Orcas (much of which has now been given back to the state as Moran State Park), and when his mansion was converted into a resort in the 1960s, it became a major traveler destination in the region.
Local composer Christopher Peacock plays the piano as we walk in, then walks upstairs to the library where he sits down to play the organ while displaying slides of the Morans during their heyday at the estate.
Moran came to Orcas believing that his life would soon be at an end, and lived to see his family grow and flourish in a beautiful setting. He wrote of the Island, "It is a wonderful place in which to forget one's troubles and worries and get back to Nature in her happiest moods; a delightful place in which to regain health--physical, mental and spiritual." He was sick in the city; he was well here. What was diagnosed as heart disease was most likely stress.
Several recent reports have investigated the effects of city life on mental health, and as I soak up the virtues of pseudo-country life, I can't help but peruse their findings. While debates are open as to its physical effects (does bad air cancel out the benefits of constant walking?), there seems to be clear evidence that city life tends to generate mental illness. The stress of social interaction--of hyper-vigilence at both work and play-seems to be as taxing as regular emotional trauma. It's no surprise to me that one's health could improve in the country, if only based in the reality that there are less people there. You have more time for the mind, more time to reflect and retreat. Your relationships, because there are less of them, may be more intense, but less overwhelming. If people retreat to the country to "take the waters," it also seems they do it to take the distance. Lying on the pool deck may only prove relaxing when it's quiet and nearly empty, as was the case for us today.
Master of human destinies am I;
Fame, love and fortune on my footsteps wait.
Cities and fields I walk. I penetrate
Deserts and seas remote, and, passing by
Hovel and mart and palace, soon or late,
I knock unbidden once at every gate.
If sleeping, wake; if feasting, rise, before
I turn away. It is the hour of fate,
And they who follow me reach every state
Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
Save death; but those who hesitate
Condemned to failure, penury and woe,
Seek me in vain, and uselessly implore.
I answer not, and I return no more.
A poem about the fickle nature of opportunity, written by a senator probably procrastinating between reading bills, speaks volumes to me. It suggests that if the opportunity arises to treat yourself well--if it knocks in the form of a beckoning hike, a body of water, a chance to learn to cook--you have to seize it when it first arrives. To put it off, to hope it comes again later, is to resign oneself to a life of missed chances. What may look like leisure to some--my taking off from normal life, in the hopes of trying out another--may actually be the seizing of an opportunity that will never come again. The biggest struggle may be, if nothing else comes of it, looking back on this time and not merely seeing it as "time off." I'd much prefer to think of it as "time on."