Sunday, August 31, 2014


Did I really have to wait 62 years to discover that a person never really needs a vacation, that all he or she needs to do is experience a different realm in order to escape the daily routine of life?  It's true: that was a discovery I made just a few days ago.  Since then this word "realm" has been going round and round in my head.

I don't mean to be sounding philosophical when I analyze this idea of realms; I would just like people to be aware of them so that it doesn't take them 62 years, as it did me, to realize that enjoying a realm, on any level, can substitute for entertainment or escapism.

Let me be more specific.

I define a "realm" as a space, place, or time--a mini world--that somehow transports a person from his or her daily routine and offers refreshment, entertainment, and a sense of difference that gives a breath of renewal.  For some people, a realm can be as simple as visiting a hospital.  One walks through the hospital doors and is immediately ushered into a totally different "universe": doctors and nurses scuttling about, that certain chemical smell pervading the atmosphere, a sense of hurry, urgency.  In those minutes we find ourselves in this different space, we are taken out of our normalness, perhaps even out of our comfort zone.  But it really doesn't matter if the realm of the hospital takes us out of our normal ease of living just as long as it takes us--period.  Eventually we will come home and be back in our comfortable groove.  But the effect will have been that, for some moments, we will have escaped ourselves and "visited" another realm.  That is good for us.

I have been particularly observant of the different realms existing around me: ones that I enjoy being a part of of; ones I'm impressed with and wish I could be a part of on a daily basis; and ones that are so different and exciting that I am almost unworthy of their experiences.  Of those realms I am just tickled to enjoy a few moments, like scuba diving among tropical fishes and sharks.  I would guess that, for most people, vacations to different countries qualify as realms.

As I said, these realms make us feel different when we are in them; they make us feel special, if only for a few moments.  But they all offer renewal, rejuvenation, education.

Realms that I have experienced of late are the following: walking a wooded trail, making my way to teach on the campus of Lehigh Carbon Community College amongst hordes of students trundling to class.  Being in the classroom teaching is another realm for me since I am an adjunct and only experience it two days a week.  Other realms for me--as individual for me as for anyone else--are experiencing and participating in a horse show; visiting Ross Mill Farm and Piggy Camp (a rescue for pot-bellied pigs); going to a concert; eating outside at River Walck Saloon; fishing by a creek; experiencing the beach at Sandy Hook Park in NJ; wine-tasting in the Finger Lakes; being at a courthouse and in a courtroom.

Literally, a realm is a microcosm, a tiny world, in which those people residing inside unfathomably regard their life inside, not as a realm, but as ho-hum daily life.  They regard their realm as common, unexciting to them--routine.  But experiencing their realm is not boring to me.  A realm is a different world from the one I own.  It's exciting, different, transporting.  A realm affords meeting different people of different nationalities, different interests, different talents.  It's a different space with different goals, interests, and ambitions from mine.  It's most certainly a different place from what I'm used to.  A realm shares itself and its people or animals or whatever with me so that I can learn, enjoy, and feel renewed by it.  A realm is something one needs to open himself up to, or the learning experience could slip away, unappreciated.

Here are more realms--for me: a casino, a zoo, a traffic jam, canoeing on a lake, sleeping overnight anywhere but one's own home.  Around here I feel transported--on a temporary vacation--when I visit the Lehigh Valley Zoo, when I walk wooded trails, when I visit the Sands Casino (that is really a different kind of realm, isn't it?).  What some people believe is just their work, I consider an enlightening realm: the Kabota showroom; being in a church, a library, an assisted living or nursing home; riding the Strasburg railroad; visiting an Amish farm; going to a fair, festival, a fireworks display.

These realms take me away: by their looks, their smells, the special noises going on there.  All that makes me feel different and a little on edge, "up" or "down" is what I call a realm.  It's an experience, whether negative or positive, and its renews and allows me to learn and, therefore, grow.  It's starting a new job; it's going on a vacation; it's shopping at a totally new and dazzling place; it's meeting people who share same interests in a common world which I am only allowed to visit momentarily but whose visit enlightens.

Enough, now, about realms.  Recognize them; appreciate them; and grow from their experience.  Without them life is a dullard merely trudging along--minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.  The realm is a spark in the dark.