Saturday, August 29, 2009

Heavenly Day: Part I

Heavenly day
All the trouble gone away
For a while anyway, for a while anyway
Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day...

Patty Griffin, Children Running Through
© 2007 ATO Records, LLC

Listening to Patty Griffin’s remarkable voice is definitely something I enjoy. I can’t say Heavenly Day ranks as one of my all-time favorites, but the song captures the essence of what a "heavenly day" feels like when you’re in the midst of one. And I've been blessed with them in abundance. Some have been planned in advance, but the majority have simply unfolded. The seeds are sewn in a suggestion or spontaneous idea—like “let’s drive to Belmar”—and then the day just blossoms into perfection.

Sometimes I hit the jackpot: heavenly days back-to-back! Last weekend, Jim and I decided to spend our last two vacation days of the summer bumming around in the Catskills. We do a lot of day trips in the area and last summer stayed at a friend's house in Woodstock and hiked for a week. But Jim had a sore Achilles, so anything more than an easy walk was out of the question. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to book a room in a small inn in High Falls, but other than that we had no plan in place when we woke up Sunday morning. We agreed to start out at our favorite local breakfast spot, the County Deli, were we fueled up on lobster eggs benedict (him) and a ham & cheese breakfast wrap (me), then set off for the sleepy little town of Catskill.

We had been there once before, enjoying the whimsical cat sculptures that line the streets and a nice al fresco lunch. But the return trip was a surprise--and not in a good way. Many of the shops were out of business and the bulk of the rest were closed. On a Sunday? We walked into a small antique store and the owner, a soft-spoken man who offered to negotiate the price of anything that struck our fancy, told us that most of the town was pretty much closed on Saturdays, too. This news, mixed with the pervasive aura of emptiness, made Jim so sad that even a Jane's cappuccino ice cream didn't cheer him up (I can't say the same for my yummy mango sherbet.) Then it started to rain, which forced us to head to one of my favorite places on earth: Lucky Chocolates.

Housed in a renovated garage on the outskirts of Saugerties,
it's an unlikely oasis of hedonism. The worst part about going is having to choose from the array of sinfully original organic chocolates. We're partial to the truffles: raspberry and Earl Grey for me, orange and the seldom-available gorgonzola for Jim. (And I rarely leave without a bag of their big, fat chocolate chip cookies.) We opened our box of treasures the minute we were back in the car and let loose a chorus of "mmmnnn's" and "oh, wow's" as we savored the dense, silky treats. Amazing.

The next stop was Woodstock, where I usually torture Jim by dragging him into every single shop that sells jewelry. But we decided to bypass town and head straight to The Bear Cafe for an early dinner of salad and cheeseburgers. The surprise was that we were there early enough (and the rain stopped long enough) to snag a table out on the deck. The rushing of the rain-swollen stream below us was a lovely backdrop and a cool breeze kept the bugs at bay. It was so idyllic I even indulged in a second Absolut and tonic before we headed down Rte. 209 to High Falls.

Neither of us had been there before and it's highly unlikely we'll go back anytime soon. Maybe it was the extreme humidity. Or the fact that we were tired from the day's adventures. Or it could have been the total confusion of the staff in the adjacent tavern where we'd been instructed to pick up our room key. Whatever the reasons, our night at the inn was not the cozy, romantic, or even quirky experience either of us had hoped for. But as I drifted off to sleep with the sound of the Yankees beating the Red Sox in the background, and visions of the next day's breakfast dancing in my head, there was no doubt that this had qualified as a heavenly day.

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