The joys of an empty calendar

Deb and I aren’t planners these days. Sure, we need to make “appointments” for some things — like getting Ernie’s furnace fixed, having the Jeep serviced, vet visits for the dogs and so on — and when we make a date-and-time commitment, we keep it.

Both of us spent decades enslaved by our calendars. Now we’re no longer raising a family, neither of us is tied to a job, we’ve taken a break from the road and we truly have no pressing obligations. So our schedules are, for the most part, empty.

If you want to know how that feels, the word is “liberating.” There’s incredible freedom in not creating each day until after that morning’s coffee — waking up to a blank page and filling it with a compelling (to us) story, original and unexpected.

That’s the way we like it. That’s what we strive to do.

Yesterday, for example, we’d already finished our second cup before deciding to drive into Harrison and grab a few supplies. We were almost out the door when I said, “Hey — wanna go to Branson instead?”

And so we did.

“Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each step isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself.”

Robert M. Pirsig

Saturday was a chamber-of-commerce day, sixty and sunny. Fall has cast its glow on the steep, wooded slopes between here and Missouri — soft and subtle, nothing vivid, just enough to bring a smile and raise a camera. Our half-hour drive north let us know that it’s definitely autumn in The Ozarks.

Until, that is, we arrived in Branson.

/rant on

As soon as we exited US 65 I saw a huge Christmas tree in front of a local bank. At Branson Landing, our destination, there were holiday decorations everywhere we looked — on the promenade, in every store and in every restaurant. Christmas music blared from speakers mounted throughout the place.

Serious question: Does anyone in this country observe Thanksgiving anymore?

Our culture seems to hurtle straight from carving pumpkins and playing dress-up to sitting on the fat elf’s knee. As a society we’ve forgotten how to pause and be grateful, and I’ve had it up to here with businesses (and way too many adults) steamrolling the turkey in their headlong rush to December 25th.

It’s shameful.

Here’s my rule: No days may be counted, no carols sung, no trees trimmed and no lists made until after the Thanksgiving dinner dishes are washed, dried and put away. Period.

/rant off

Anyway, we showed up at Branson Landing on a gorgeous day. Shoppers seemed to be in good spirits. We browsed a few stores and peered through windows, making our way eventually to the far end of the mall and Bass Pro Shops.

I was looking for lace-up boots better suited to woods-walking in cold weather than the lightweight hikers I’d packed six months ago. I found a pair, too, just what I was after and at an attractive price.

Mostly, Deb and I watched people.

It won’t surprise regular readers of Ubi Libertas Blog that I paid attention to this, but I saw virtually no “pandemic theater.” In the cash-out line at Bass Pro, there was no “distancing” charade. Strangers held doors for strangers. Friends hugged friends. Maybe one out of every hundred people I saw were masked, if that many. The atmosphere felt almost normal.

The culture is different here. This is The South.

Speaking of The South, we ended yesterday’s visit to Branson with an early dinner from the lunch menu at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. It’s our kind of cuisine, made the old-fashioned way and served family-style.

We chose two entrées (chicken and dumplings, meat loaf) and four sides (broccoli casserole, candied yams, creamed corn, cole slaw). There was a basket of cheese biscuits drizzled with garlic butter. Each of us had a glass of sweet tea (natch). For dessert, cobbler — one peach, one apple.

This is real American food, true comfort food, the dishes we enjoyed growing up. The flavors of childhood quite literally brought Deb to tears.

Paula Deen’s offers unlimited refills on everything, so it’s essentially an all-you-can-eat deal, but we didn’t take advantage — portions were enormous, the biggest and best meal we’ve had in ages. It didn’t break the bank, either.

If you’d checked with us on Friday, neither of us would’ve predicted that we’d spend the next afternoon in Branson. This was unexpected, unplanned and unscripted.

I mean, it wasn’t on our calendar.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB