I’ve so many saddles to get back in: writing, exercising, home organizing, self-care, computer clean-up, but rather than choosing one place to start I imagine the whole lot as a giant pile-up on the highway with no shoulder, no movement and I have to pee.
But not yet badly enough.
Travel is a great illuminator for me. It fans the flames of confidence and fortifies my resolve to write something meaningful. Something, anything at all. I’m still teasing out the connection, but I have resolved to do research until it becomes clear. Hopefully it always remains a little muddy and I will continue to need to book flight after to flight. For research.
The information I collect when I travel – or rather the details I retain – amuses me. I can tell you the exact spot in Porto Venere, Italy – known as The Grotto dell’Arpaia – where Lord Byron walked out to sea to swim across the gulf of La Spezia to visit his friend and fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. I can point out the flat white marble slab under which Shelley’s remains lie in the Non-Italian Cemetery in Rome. And the plot of two stones in that same graveyard, one being Keats that simply reads Young English Poet and the other belonging to Joseph Severn who was kind enough to identify the young poets grave my emblazoning his own tombstone, in rather large letters with, “friend of Keats”.
Why do I remember this stuff? I can’t tell you much about Venice except that I found the perfect room in a third floor flat overlooking a canal in which I’d like to write. Oh, and yes, of course it was breathtaking.
I have a photograph of Preseren, a revered 19th Century poet in Ljubljana, Slovenia as he peers at the window in which his unrequited love for an unavailable woman fell. A bronze statue of Oscar Wilde on a bench in Dublin is currently on my phone. There is little I can tell you about Hemingway’s home in Key West aside from how ridiculously adorable the six-toed kitties are, that there was a basement and precisely where Hemingway had his typewriter, the size of the desk on which it sat, the shape of the chair in front of it and out of which windows he could gaze in contemplation.
In my travels I photograph an equal number of bars as I do bookstores (as well as incredible landscapes, it’s not all about drunken inspiration and finding fodder for writing at the bottom of a glass) from all over the world. On this last trip to Ireland, I happened to sit next to a successful working actor (in one of those bars), who by his own admission is typically recognized as that guy from that show. Soon after pleasantries were exchanged we started talking about books. He asked me if I had read a certain one, I admitted I hadn’t, he shared some of the contents and recommended it.
Is this normal? It didn’t even occur to me to have my photo taken with him.
Whether I am prepared to own it or not, it seems the page, its contents – or lack thereof – the unshared stories and all the shiny objects pointing back to the page, own me. I am in love with words. I don’t even have to be a good writer, I just have to write. Out loud.
I have vowed to make coffee shops a line item in my budget for the coming year. It seems the only place I can focus without the tug of laundry or snuggling with my furries or napping until the pile-up clears. It will become my afternoon office to edit, write, and observe life. Sometimes that writing will be a Trip Advisor review, a blog post, or a chapter in some mysterious book that has yet to reveal itself to me. At other times I’m sure “research” will take me down the rabbit hole of websites and social media. But I will be in place. I’ll be AT WORK.
There seems to be a sense of urgency now. I’m just back from a trip abroad. There’s that mysterious connection again. I have to find a way out of this traffic jam and onto the open road of possibility. I can see the signs more clearly now: travel experiences, insights on consciousness, lessons from nature, public restroom.