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One summer, we rented a house by the bay. The house was full of spiders and the kitchen smelled of food gone bad. While my husband took the kids to the beach, I cleaned the refrigerator and vacuumed cobwebs from beneath the beds. I did laundry, folded tiny shirts and big threadbare towels. I swept sand out of the living room and cut watermelon into wet, red cubes. I wiped the cutting board clean. But no matter what I did, the place still smelled iffy.

The house did have an outdoor shower—a crude spigot over a slatted cedar floor. Every evening, I stood under the warm spray, looked out at the bay and the peninsula of green scrub that jutted into the blue. A whole vacation can happen in a few delicate moments.


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