I need to find a place where I can listen to the words on the wind.
Have you ever needed to get away? I mean, just get to a place where you can be with your own thoughts. A place that is quiet, that fosters contemplation, a place where the muses gather. A place where you can “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
A room of one’s own.
Beyond just a physical space, it is that place inside where you can go to be alone, to meditate, to know yourself fully, to express. It is that place where you can drink from the well and be replenished. It is private, unique, your own.
That is where I long to be right now. I am in the midst of that need. I feel the call to solace, the call to find a place where I can make sense of my work, of who I am hoping to be, and of finding that still-elusive destination that lies ahead.
And yes, I know that I am sixty plus years, but I still have places to go. What if I live to be a hundred years old? That’s forty years from now. Think of all the places I still can go, the things I can do, the characters I can meet and write about…the stories I can tell.
At this particular moment in time, what I want is to follow in the footsteps of a few of my heroes—a few of my literary mentors—
Henry David Thoreau moved for a time to a cabin in the woods near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. He went there because “I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings sequestered herself in a rundown cottage in the midst of an orange grove on the banks of Cross Creek…
one of many bayous in the heart of central Florida because she could not understand, “how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to.” Living and writing there, she came to know that Cross Creek belonged not to her, but “to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time…”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh spent summers in a beach-side cottage with her sister on the Atlantic because, “some morning in the second week, the mind wakes, comes to life again. It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the unconscious mind.”
Judith Guest wrote at her kitchen table, as did Jane Auel, but then that is not what I’m looking for. I have a kitchen table. I don’t particularly want to write there. I’ve done that. I’ve penned novels at my kitchen table and on the floor of my bedroom that have been very successful. That is not what I want. That is not what I now seek.
Perchance I could be in Paris, the sixth arrondissment, if you don’t mind. I want to be where Hemingway penned A Moveable Feast, where Gertrude Stein and Jean Paul Sartre wrote and celebrated their existential lives.
When I think of My Place, of that spot where I can go to create, to pen, to hear those words of the world, I have my own particular fantasies.
Sometimes, I see myself at the pinnacle of a steep lichen-covered stairway high on the cliff on the isle of Capris, sweet yellow broom lining the narrow walkway, a small whitewashed cottage at path’s end, ancient stone walls draped in blood-red bouganvillea, the cerulean blue Mediterranean sun-dappled and beckoning far below.
At other times, I’m in a log cabin in the heart of the Rocky Mountains…
a sweet, pine-scented spiral of smoke lifting from the chimney, blue lupines carpeting the meadow, a cold stream irridescent with trout cutting through the tall grasses, white capped mountains towering over the valleys.
Sometimes, I’m ensconced in the small screen porch of a cottage that sits on the banks of a lake in Minnesota, where the loons serenade the sunset, and where you can paddle in your canoe to a nearby island.
There are so many islands off this coast that you can, according to the journalist Charles Kuralt, paddle each day to a different island for a hundred years. Imagine!
Of course, most of the realities of those lovely isolated places have little to do with the fantasies that I hold about them.
There is a place in the Collegiate Peaks range of Colorado that the Ute Indians once named the Valley of the Gods. In the mid to late nineteenth century, the valley now known as Taylor Park was the summer hunting ground for the Uncomphagre and Tabeguache Ute Indians. The valley teemed with buffalo and long grass. The rivers and streams were abundant with trout. I am writing a novel set in that valley, so I drove there this summer to take another look.
So, where do I go to find the silence, to hear the words for the story I need to tell?
I have characters who have been with me for thirty years. Thirty years! They’ve insinuated themselves into the very marrow of my being. They refuse to give me peace, and it is time for them to launch.
I’ve written other books in the meantime, with other characters. But these particular characters are the ones to whom I want to give wing.
They deserve to have their stories told. They are women who, in late nineteenth-century Colorado, had no room of their own, no free ticket to success, no twenty-first century opportunities to excel. What they did have was Grit. They had Substance. And they lived amazing stories. I will tell those stories. I will tell them, even…as my daughter says…
If she and I are the only ones to read them.
Now, if I can just find that room of my own in which to write those stories. If I can just find that place.
That perfect, isolated place…