On the Road

October 29, 2007

I’m in Virginia right now, visiting old friends, making my way northward to New York City, where I’ll see more friends, including several who I first met during my year in Australia, and ultimately to Saratoga Springs, where I’ll attend the World Fantasy Convention, and have a chance to spend time with still more old friends.  My wife and daughters couldn’t join me on this trip.  They’re home, working, going to school, preparing for Halloween.  And naturally I miss them very much.

But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy extended driving trips like this one.  I find in the solitude of the road, in the quick intense reunions with people from my past, something that renews me, that reminds me of who I am, of where I come from, and of where my life is headed.  An old friend — not one I’ll see on this trip; I’d have to cross the pond to see him — once referred to the car as an island of steel and glass.  It’s an image that has stuck with me.  The car isolates us, even as it takes us to those we love.  It provides a refuge of a sort from the hassels and routines of everyday life.  I do some of my best thinking in the car.  Give me an open road and some good music, and I can map out an entire book, or solve plotting problems that confounded me while I sat at my desk.  But I can also lose myself in driving and go for miles, hours, without any directed thought at all.  (Yes, I know — those who know me have no trouble imagining me thoughtless and clueless.)  And there’s something incredibly cleansing about that, as well.  So much of our time is planned, either by us or for us.  We have to scratch out our down time, our chances to relax and do nothing.  But alone, on the road, we have hours at a time during which all we have to do — all we can do — is drive.  Our minds are free to roam.

Stepping back into old friendships offers a different kind of renewal.  My wife and I are fortunate to have  many wonderful friends where we live.  We’ve been there for years, and many of the people we spend time with are as dear to us as any friends we’ve ever had.  But as I reconnect with friends from my past, be they friends from college, or Australia, or from the early years of my career, I learn things about myself and my present life.  It’s easy to take for granted all that sustains us, all that gives emotional texture to our lives.  But as I sit with my Virginia friends in their kitchen, surrounded by their children, steeped in the aromas of the meal they’re sharing with me, and I tell them about my kids, about my work, about the little things that strike me as funny or poignant in my day to day experiences, I see these things as if for the first time, through their eyes.  And I’m amazed by the richness of it all.  I’m struck by how fortunate I am.  I realize that there’s nothing mundane in that life I’ve left back in Tennessee.  It just happens to be mine, and thus, as I said earlier, too easy to take for granted.

Today’s music:  Gary Burton and Pat Metheny

A word about my previous entry:  teaching at the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop conference went very well and was a tremendous amount of fun.  The conference attendees were engaged and motivated and eager to talk about their craft.  In short they were the perfect students.  They made my job easy; they made it a pleasure.


One Response to “On the Road”

  1. Priscilla H said

    Steph shared your blog with us. What a wonderful way to keep up with you! Just wanted to say “thank you” for coming and teaching at the SCWW conference.

    As a new writer, I struggled in a nebulous cloud knowing something was missing, but not understanding how to put my finger on it. I understand that much of the process is intuitive, however, for beginners, much is craft.

    I came to this conference in the cloud but came away with clarity. This was due, in an extremely large way, to you, and I truly want to thank you for sharing your insights and the process with us. It was great to meet you, and I sincerely wish you and your family the best.

    I’ll be following your blog. Just so you’ll know, “our group” will be watching carefully for any additional “pearls” you wish to drop.

    Hope all your travels are wonderful.

    Sincerely, Priscilla

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