This past week I was happy to find myself on a sudden vacation, as I had a week off between the end of one job and the beginning of a new one. I spent the week back at home with my parents in Albany, where I spent several days relaxing with a good book and a couple seasons of Arrested Development. Despite my attempt to spend the entire week on the couch, I was dragged out of the house on several occasions to enjoy the warmly welcomed Spring sunshine. The Spring air and week off were exactly what I needed for the fresh start I’ve been craving.

On Friday, my good friend Sarah and I left Albany early (equipped with Stewart’s coffee — the best in all the land) and drove an hour south and over the Rip Van Winkle bridge to Hudson, a small town at the foot of the Catskill Mountains. We were headed to Olana, a 19th century home designed and lived in by Frederic Church, a famous American landscape artist of the same time period. He is known for his masterpiece, The Heart of the Andes, which is now displayed at the Met in Manhattan. His Romantic paintings are classified as those of the Hudson River School, and he painted alongside his mentor, Thomas Cole. Olana includes not only the beautiful house where he raised his four children, but also a carefully landscaped 250-acres.

The Heart of the Andes

The Heart of the Andes

After touring the Persian-style house (fully furnished with original Victorian furniture and dozens of Frederic Church and Thomas Cole originals), Sarah and I set out to see some of the views Olana generously offers by being situated at the top of a hill facing the Catskills and overlooking the Hudson River. Walking around the grounds of Olana was breathtaking, and its easy to imagine why Church chose that spot for his house; he landscaped the views from his own home. Down the hill from the house sits a small pond (also put in by Church). As Sarah and I walked down to the pond we were surprised by the Spring day and the beauty of the estate. We were more surprised by how far away pond was, and furthermore how steep the hill was that we had just walked down. We didn’t quite realize this until we turned around to walk back to the car and were faced with a hike.

It was a beautiful day!

It was a beautiful day!

So we set up the hill, and I was embarrassed at how fast I was out of breath. As someone who walks quite a bit, just living in the city, I am always shocked by how out-of-shape walking up inclines can make you feel. The walk back to the car was probably only a half mile or so, but it was a struggle. It was the kind of struggle that makes you reexamine your life, your choices, and your dinner.

Sarah and the mountains

Sarah and the mountains

I’ve been lazy and frustrated fighting this life-long battle to change habits and stay motivated. My self-sabotaging tendencies are truly shocking, as is my unwillingness to succeed. But as I struggled up that hill, I was smacked with the realization that if I get my act together now I can have a fun and active summer, instead of a lazy season where I’m unhappy in a bathing suit. I don’t want to miss out on the view of the Catskills because I’m too tired to get the best vantage point. I’ve known this before, and I’ve been motivated before, but I’ve got to hold onto it every time it comes to me and hope that each time it stays a little longer until I’m ready to grab onto the change for good.