A friend of mine (a “real writer,” who is currently working on a novel) invited another woman, Kim (another real book writer) and me (so not a novelist or book writer) to join her in Nantucket at the ancestral summer home of a family friend. Since I have fancied the idea of having whole days of uninterrupted writing time, I readily accepted and dreamed of island exploration, photographing cool stuff, blogging about it, writing for hours in my notebook. Heck, I thought, maybe I’ll write a book too. I’ll have all the time in the world without having to worry about feeding the cats, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, running errands, going to work, returning phone calls. It will be a veritable writing feast where I will come into my own and claim the coveted title of “writer” (for real). I had fantasies of clinking glasses with an imaginary Hemingway at the end of a writing work day, or strolling along the beach with St. Exupery while contemplating profound matters of literary consequence.
The house was amazing. It is the home of quiet wealth, the kind that has no need to reveal itself as anything other than what it is. There are 7 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, an enormous sunny kitchen with full views of the bay. The wood floors of the old section were painted and scrubbed clean, immaculate, every corner proud of its nobility and its age. The collected wisdoms of the people who lived and laughed there have left a patina of silence in each room, leaving me feeling very much at peace. There is no “decor” other than the plain reflection of the lives of the owners: a black and white photograph of a woman racing to hit a tennis ball, a man smiling at the ocean, a cat sprawled on a desk. Here I was, sitting at a desk in a mansion in Nantucket, with the bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, writing in my $7 notebook. I would love to tell you how inspired I was, how ideas came tumbling out faster than I could write them down. You would think that for as much as I like to write, I would be possessed of a higher discipline.
As it turned out, I kept sneaking out the door to look for birds: Eastern Towhees by the dozens, Yellow Warblers (how did they find their way here?) Redstarts, Common Eiders, Grey Catbirds, Song Sparrows, ROBINS GALORE, Wood Thrushes spinning rays of sunlight through the morning fog with their eeee-oh-lay song, a female Northern Harrier coursing over the brushy meadows, and even her mysterious mate, the Grey Ghost, was spotted twice. Once I heard the cry of a loon, which sends me over the moon every time.
Like faith, I believe the benefits of these days on a writing retreat with someone who was really writing (not me) will reveal themselves over time. As it turns out, I grew impatient with spending so much time in my own head and needed some stimulation, some distraction to ignore to force myself to focus my thoughts and experience. All that wonderful writing time sucked the desire right out of me, so I was left somewhat bewildered by the realization that I write better when I should be doing something else; getting ready for work, raking leaves, doing the grocery shopping, weeding the garden. What is it about those stolen moments that are so juicy and provocative, not to mention, PRODUCTIVE? (Like now, when I should be washing the breakfast dishes…).
Thank you, N. West Moss, and you too, Kim! You both are forever an inspiration!