“Let’s Take a Break,” Oct. 18, 2016

Sometimes, for whatever reasons, we all need a break.

Maybe the walls are closing in, and we crave wide-open spaces. Or the world weighs heavy, and we need to rest. Or perhaps the news has taken such an ugly turn we long to shut it off.

It happens. I’ve taken breaks for all those reasons and more. But this time was simple: I was hungry to see fall and my kids.

Growing up in the mountains of North Carolina left its mark on me in many ways, including a lifelong love affair with autumn.

I live in the desert outside Las Vegas. Autumn here is marked by a mild drop in temps, and a change of seasonal displays at the hotels on the Strip.

I wanted a “real” fall. And as always, I wanted to see my kids. My husband and I share five grown children, three married, plus five grandchildren with another on the way. They all live in California, except for my youngest and his wife and their three little ones, who recently moved to Montana.

When my husband spotted my “need a break” look, he came up with a nearly perfect plan: We’d drive to Yellowstone to see fall, then to Montana to see the kids.

I say “nearly perfect” because, due to other commitments, we needed to do all 2,500 miles roundtrip _ see Yellowstone and spend three very full days with the kids _ in a week.

“You bet,” I said. “Let’s go.”

And so we went. I wish you could’ve seen it.  Rugged red rock. Rolling green farmland. Snow-covered Tetons (they don’t call them that for nothing.) And dazzling thickets of golden cottonwoods dotting the canyons like neon signs flashing, “Welcome to fall!”

In Jackson, Wyoming, we got just enough snow to make us laugh, but not enough to need tire chains.

In Yellowstone, we huddled on benches in the cold with other tourists, waiting almost an hour for Old Faithful to live up to its name. Which it did, finally. And it was worth it.

That night before dinner at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, we met a couple from Australia. Dinner was good and the conversation was such a pleasure.

The next day we drove north through the Eden-like Hayden Valley, winding along the Yellowstone River, passing tourists snapping selfies with bored looking buffalo _ or as my grandson, Henry, would more correctly say, bison.

Then we rode all day across Montana, oohing and ahhing at every scenic turn, to Missoula, the place my youngest and his family now call home.

If there’s a prettier town, I’ve not seen it. As Norman Maclean wrote in his title of one of my all-time favorite novels, a river (the Clark Fork of the Columbia) runs through it.

For three days, we soaked up fall and family, falling leaves and laughing children and long talks about things that matter. Then we said goodbye, a lot of “I love you’s,” and headed home.

Somewhere between Missoula and Las Vegas, I thought about my granddaughter, Eleanor.

Elle is almost 2. If you sing “Pretty Woman,” she will smile her angel smile, raise her arms above her head and twirl about the room, until either you stop singing or she falls down.

I want to see that same smile forever on her face and the faces of her brothers and cousins and all children everywhere. I want to give them a world of autumn leaves and possibilities.

I suspect you might like to give them that, too.

Are the walls are closing in on you? Is the world is weighing you down? Is the news making you long to shut it off? Give yourself a break.  You don’t have to drive 2,500 miles. Just go outside for a while, soak up some autumn, watch children at play, spend time with people you love. Think about the things that truly matter to you, things you are willing to work for.

Take a break, yes, but don’t give up. When you’re rested and ready, roll up your sleeves.

We were born, you and I, to be caretakers of the Earth and all its children.

If we don’t take care of them, God help us. Who will?


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    Absolutely the most beautiful season of the year…. and up here in the real Nevada we have color everywhere and snow on the Sierra (mostly melting now). Drove through Missoula on our way to Lincoln MT last July- absolutely gorgeous area! You are blessed ? ….
    As is your youngest and his family.

  2. Linda Kantowski says

    Sharon, after reading some of your readers’ feedback, I do believe you may have some literary competition!! WONDERFUL heartfelt comments. I sometimes envy you. I know how hard you work, but as a result you have connected & found love and compassion from people all over this glorious country of ours. Peace be with each and every one.

  3. You needed a vacation Sharon !! Glad to know you had great time !! All good wishes for new baby !!

  4. Mary Winner says

    Thank so much for this different take on life’s stresses. I did go for a 2 day trip to IL with my husband. It was nice to get away and take a deep breath. You see Ive been recently laid off and worry about my husbands medical expenses. I’m going to take a few minutes each day to walk outside and think of something other than gainful employment, bills, and medical expenses.

  5. Pearlene Curry says

    I need such a rest after fighting for my life the last 3 years from major back surgery with problems. I am a mountain woman at the very soul of me. Fall is my favorite time of year. I have a little place I go to that is a valley surronded by trees as high as you can see. My soul gets revived here. I am waiting for the colors to reach here. And it can’t be soon enough. I love to travel with you and to read thru your words where we go. Thank you so much, my dear friend.

  6. JoAnn Burns says

    Fall is late this year in the Midwest due to the warm weather and lack of frost. Two weekends ago my husband and I had our two younger grandkids for the long Columbus Day weekend. We drove up to Michigan and spent one day in Grand Rapids and the second day in Saugatuck. We went in the wild dune buggy rides. I don’t know who enjoyed it more, the 9 year old, the 7 year old or the 69 year old Papa. Last weekend my husband and I drove up to Door County, Wisconsin, my favorite place in the world. It’s a 6 hour trip and we do this several times a year. The leaves are just starting to turn but the weather was perfect.

  7. natalie prenatt says

    Yay for Autumn! I lived in the south for 17 years, and then came back home. I know people think I’m crazy, (snow can be somewhat challenging, not to mention subzero temperatures). But what can compare with the beauty of a panoramic view of such splendor as we see in the foothills of the Alleghenies in NW PA? God is amazing! He has created this all for us to enjoy, and enjoy I do! Thank you for your column, Sharon, you are a truly beautiful woman!

  8. Beverly Davisson says

    Nature, she is a Wonderful thing!! My Husband & I went to Spruce Know, the Highest point in West Virginia. Was Beautiful, I always say, Don’t give up on Love, you didn’t. There was a Couple on the look out tower, getting Married. The Best part was, they were in there late 60’s I would say, He was Silver haired,Handsome,she was plump, Beautiul!! I will never forget them! Halding Hands, in Love,,,

  9. Sheri Titcombe says

    I so like the fall/autumn season. Beautiful colors of the leaves, chilly temperatures and sitting on the deck memorized by the beautification of a glorious sunset. We do need breaks in this busy lifestyle rat race we call life.

  10. Carol Gardner says

    This couldn’t have come at a better time! I am 78, my husband who has dementia, is 83. I am caregiver 24/7 for him, and right now I need a break! I had set up time for him to go to the wonderful Adult Day Care just for a visit, and he absolutely refuses. My adult children are very sporadic with their attention, and when I am desperate for relief, they are hard to get hold of. Just reading your column eases things a bit. I live vicariously through friends’ travels.

  11. Joleen Ferranti Hevner says

    Ha! We did the same thing yesterday, Sharon. Went driving the Blue Ridge Parkway to Blowing Rock. What amazing colors, and what a wonderful break!
    Glad you got to see the family and sites.

Speak Your Mind