Escape with me from the world today to some of my favorite heavenly places from the past, where we didn’t worry about what to say, and nobody wore a mask.

  • The soft, hot sand squished through our toes as we walked along what became our private beach on the island of Aruba, away from the hotels and tourists. Seagulls squawked while spray from the ocean cooled our sunburned faces and lent a salty aroma to the air.

A native divi divi tree leaned longingly toward us while we made sure not to step on any of the tiny scurrying spiders and crabs. My wife and I sat down on our blankets and noticed an abandoned, rusty ship in the distance grounded off the beach.

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Suddenly, I jumped up and sprinted toward the water. I lifted my knees as I ran, one after another, high above the wall of waves that tried to slow my rush. Then dove in head first.

The cold whoosh in my face was wonderful and freeing as I remained submerged for several seconds. I could hear the waves above me. I wished I could stay under longer, longer ...

  • I didn’t know it at the time, but I would have Yellowstone National Park almost all to myself that day in early May more than 30 years ago.

On the way to an interview for a sports reporter job in Idaho from eastern Wyoming, I had to drive through the park the week it opened. Snow was piled higher than my car at the east entrance, and a sign warned of possible avalanches. So, just in case, I turned down the volume on my car radio.

About an hour into the park, having yet to meet another car, I stopped near where the Yellowstone River runs into Yellowstone Lake. The cold silence was something I hadn’t experienced before, nor was the moose about 200 yards away on the edge of the river.

As I stood and admired God’s creation, another vehicle finally appeared. A park ranger drove up and asked me how I was doing. I could see his breath in the air as he told me the area wasn’t officially opened yet and that I should probably “keep a movin’”.

Oh that I could stay for hours.

  • Men and women dressed in medieval costumes filled our glasses with mead — over and over again, if you wished — as our Ireland bus tour group waited in a packed room of people to be led into Bunratty Castle’s dining room.

Mingling among us mortals was Dolores O’Riordan, lead singer of the band the Cranberries. She had been arrested for assault on an airplane earlier that month but now stood out in the room dressed in a psychedelic outfit. She would die five years later at age 46.

Soon, we climbed several narrow, winding steps — some of us in a tipsy condition — toward violin and harp music. The room had white-painted rock walls, a high ceiling and about a dozen long wooden tables, all filled with people close together.

Wouldn’t you know it, O’Riordan sat just three seats down from us, and she was quite demonstrative throughout the night. Servers dressed to the hilt brought out course after course of entrees for the medieval meal, and we were entertained by choruses and small bands.

All three of these memories are the kinds of escape I’m sure many of us yearn for these days. They’re the kind that will be available again, before we know it.