Welcome to the world of the writer: oftentimes a hobbit hole of solitary confinement. We imprison ourselves there, poring over tomes of research and babbling nonsensical asides, typing until our fingers are bloody stumps as we finish our Magna Ópera.
Or maybe not.
For several years I lived this way, but not because my head was buried in books and writings. Instead, I was engrossed in a time of Great Tribulation.
Being an Alzheimer’s caregiver did not afford much in the way of personal freedoms, which lessened as the years progressed, and ultimately became a 24/7 commitment. Rest assured, many beams of sunshine lit my darkness, and more than my share of happiness filled the long days, however, solo vacations were non-existent.
Until a couple of weekends ago—enter: The Weekend Getaway.
The original plan was to meet friends at Indian Pass Campground near Port Saint Joe, Florida, a beautiful outer bank showcasing the Gulf of Mexico to the south and Indian Lagoon to the north. They recently bought a new camper and wanted to christen it, however, their truck didn’t have the horsepower to pull it.
“Come to Georgia, instead,” they said. “In the meantime, we’ll shop for a powerful V8 Monster and hit the local campground along the Chattahoochee River.”
Over seven years had passed since going anywhere by myself. There was no time to second-guess, no time to hesitate; up to Georgia I fled.
Rounding the first curve across the state line revealed an expanse of groves which was typical Georgian landscape—rolling hills, terra cotta-red dirt, and pecan trees as far as the eye could see. Plus, their posted speed limit was ten miles per hour over Florida’s. You gotta love that!
When I arrived at my destination, the rain followed soon after and didn’t let up until early Sunday morning. My friends did indeed buy a Monster Truck, but it seemed as if camping would have to wait for another weekend.
All was not lost, though, and we filled the time constructively. For the most part, I prefer structure; but in this case, structure be damned! This weekend was all about spontaneity, and I went with the flow.
Instead of camping, Saturday saw a day of thrift store shopping—dashing in and out of Goodwill after Goodwill, ducking downpours and jumping puddles, getting soaked anyway and laughing all the while. My friends live in a large town south of Atlanta, so there were loads of second-hand stores from which to scavenge. I was a buzzard among the blowflies and these beauties were my roadkill:
Later that night, we were invited to the home of a graphic artist for dinner, who gave me a nice coffee mug with the Swift Denim logo on it. I’d never heard of the company, but the design was cool! The ironic thing was, it was my friend’s birthday and I was the one getting gifts (I finagled a set of tile coasters out of him, too).
But it wasn’t as if he was a stranger; I’ve known him for years and we all usually plan some sort of get-together whenever I visit. Unlike the others, however, this one had swag and lots of great food—precisely my kind of function.
A lazy Sunday sunbeam traipsed through the steam rising from the Zoysia grass, found a crack in the blinds, shuffled in, and whispered morning pleasantries in my ear. I peeked an eye at the clock. It was well past 9:00—the latest I’d slept in God-knows-how-long.
My friends are late sleepers whenever possible, so I made myself at home and brewed an extra-large K-cup before venturing out to the bass gongs and cathedral piping of The Wind Chime Tree.
Mossy Greek statues adorned the flower beds, and for a moment I was transported to another time, another place, when life seemed uncomplicated and more carefree, but then again, I’ve never faced a lion in a Coliseum.
Once my friends arose and the smell of pancakes, bacon, eggs, and grits had all but trickled away, we trod down the hill to take a tour of the luxurious accommodations that would house our next adventure. It was definitely five-star:
We closed the day with another dinner out, except this time at Bonefish Grill.
Crispy bacon-wrapped sea scallops teased my appetite, later sated by the smokey Grilled Swordfish and Pumpkin Ravioli. Absolute al dente heaven. Nick told a joke I can’t repeat, and it was all I could do not to spew a mouthful of pasta, for I didn’t want to waste a single bite. The evening was topped off with a Pumpkin Crème Brûlée and perfectly complemented by a dry California white.
I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my mini-sabbatical. There’s something to be said for good friends and good food; the combination was synergistic perfection.
I went to bed fat and happy.
The next morning had a harried start, as I slept two hours longer than planned, but no worries; there was no rush to get home. I must have needed it.
Somewhere near the Pecan Groves were fields and endless fields of cotton, ready for harvest. I don’t know how I missed them on the way there, other than getting caught up in the rapture of the pecan.
Before I knew it, I was bumping down the familiar dirt road home, bringing a valuable lesson learned with me.
The needs of home are important. The demands of work are important. But the two combined can make for a lethal combination, if you let them. To fully immerse oneself in the events of both will surely suffocate any writer—any person. Take it from someone who’s been there.
Moderation is key. Find a balance. And take the time—no, make the time—to get away. Your physical well-being and sanity will thank you later.
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting about the various ways a writer can relax and recuperate, all within the close comforts of home. Plus, there are writing retreats that provide a structured balance of work and play. My friend, Julie, recently attended an informal retreat with six other ladies and wrote excellent articles on the anticipation of her getaway and review of the weekend. We were in email contact while she was there, and little ol’ envious me will be scouting out one for myself like a pig rooting for black truffles.
This year I’m doing NaNoWriMo again, so my posts will be sporadic while I type my regrown fingers back down to stumps, but look for my post on IWSG Wednesday. I’ll keep you abreast of my progress. For those of you participating this year, another friend, Gus, lists some valuable suggestions to prepare yourself—however, keep in mind you must be at least this tall to ride Gus’s blog.
Feel free to buddy me: M.L. Swift. We’ll cheer each other on. As it is, I’m already a day-and-a-half into the month without a word towards my 50,000 goal.
Hmmm…this post is 1300+ words. I wonder if I can use it in my word count by changing the genre of my book to Non-fiction Travel. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, and this article has twenty-five snapshots, then heck, I’m halfway there!
Good luck to you all!
An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.
He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.