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!
ML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.
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.
50 thoughts on “The Weekend Getaway”
Moderation is key in all things we do!
Glad you got out for a solo vacation. Sounds like it was much needed. Trailer looked comfortable. It’s amazing the amenities that are in them now.
Good luck with NaNo! Not this year for me – don’t have a solid outline at the moment.
Yes, moderation in everything is my mantra, Alex. Sometimes, life doesn’t allow for that, and that’s when you have to stop, take control of the situation, and make the time. I didn’t (didn’t feel like I could), and it almost killed me.
NaNo was a last minute decision on my part. But I’m not as worried about making 50K this year as I was last year. Just want to write and have the support of others going for the same goal. I’m making it fun.
Thanks for coming by.
Hey, ML, congrats on getting away! Yes, little vacations are important. I even sneak away from my family once in a long while for a weekend (okay, about every other year. . .). Lots of early morning coffee klatches with my best friend, though–those help keep us both sane.
Off to write a few hundred words.
Been thinking about you a bit lately, and how I need to get over to your place.
Yes, it was a much-needed respite. Due to the situation, I really hadn’t had time to spend with friends like I did on this trip. It was so nice. Morning coffee klatches with friends sounds like a good way to keep a balance.
Good to see you and thanks for buddying me!
Cling to that pen like it’s alive-preserver!
That was supposed to read “a LIFE preserver.”
Yeah…that’s what my smilie was for. You don’t have to worry about things like that. Unless it’s ALL the time. 😉
It’s the auto-fill thing. Always messing me up. I don’t have it on the real computer where I write.
Mike, it’s so great to read your words again! I’ve missed you. The trip sounds great, and I’m so glad you got a chance to get away. I hope you have many, many more trips like this soon.
I’m with you on good friends and good food – there’s not much better in the world 🙂
Oh, also, I signed up for NaNoWriMo, and I also have nothing written. Off to a banging start here! I’m Liz Blocker there, too. Come hang out!
Whew! Today’s been another busy one with a lot of running around. I’ll be fitting in visiting and working on the NaNovel, but I’ve missed your words, too.
I’ll definitely buddy you!
Swift! I’ve missed you! Seems like it’s been ages. (My bad… I go up and down as far as blogging goes)
This post is so lovely on so many levels. It’s beautifully written, the message is perfect, and I’ve also decided you would be a fun person to travel with!
And holy NaNo… good luck! I should go buddy you, though I’m not planning on participating. 🙂 Thanks for sharing all of this. You’re such a good soul!
No, the bad is all mine because I haven’t even posted since Oct. 8th nor visited much either. I have stopped by and it appeared like a lot of people took extended breaks between posts. There’s been much on everyone’s plate.
Yeah…go ahead and buddy me. That way you’ll already be a buddy when you do decide to participate.
So good to see you. 😀
Ahhh blissful get away and lovely pictures. I’m so glad you got pampered a bit, enjoyed a change of scenery and got to put away the worries, even if temporarily. Maybe make something like that a semi-regular occurrence!
That’s a great thought, Julie, and what this miniseries will be about…local getaway spots, even if only in the back yard.
And yes, I was truly pampered. Bonefish Grill wasn’t cheap and Nick picked up the bill. 😀
Mike, this was a wonderful post! There are pecan groves in the New Mexican city close to my Texas hometown and they’re incomparably beautiful (all groves, I imagine.)
Swift scores in the Goodwill! (harhar) And I have to say that the idea of beginning your day among wind chimes sounds truly grand.
Here’s wishing you tremendous productivity to reach your NaNo goals. Perfect time to get to work after all of this sensory stimulation and good times!
Oh, Suze, those wind chimes were magnifique! They have several in various sizes all around the tree, some costing close to $1000.
I love thrift store shopping (harhar back to ya, too.). I live in a shabby chic decor.
Thanks for coming by. Off to NaNo. I’ll get to some of your past posts along the way. Did I understand correctly…that you’re taking a blogging fast in November? Take care.
So glad your adventure didn’t make you late for dinner. :))
And I always get more energy from getting out and enjoying new experiences than from doing nothing and sitting around the house.
Good luck with NaNo!
Just had the grandest time procrastinating at your blog. Gonna post a comment w/a pic as soon as my beard photo finishes downloading to FB. I went the Duck Dynasty route. Thanks for coming by!
I am so glad you had a great time, Mike. It was well deserved. I wish you the best of lucks with NaNo. My Dwarf Cheering Squad will be sending you the best vibe all the time. “Go Mike! Go Mike!” 🙂
Cheers from the dwarves would be excellent. And have them holding glasses of water on the sidelines for when I get dehydrated. 😉
Sounds like you had an amazing time – very jealous, I still haven’t been away by myself for… ever?
I’m very excited to be planning my own writers retreat (along with my writers group) for 2014. We’ve even got a great line up of authors planned to give workshops during the weekend! (tip, if you build a writers group, make sure there’s one super-organised member who will have your retreat all worked out in no time at all – and no, it’s not me).
I’m desperately seeking out a good local writer’s group (but certainly don’t want to head up one myself). Last year I hoped to connect with some locals at the NaNo kick-off dinner, but most were much younger than I…collegians. I do want to attend a structured retreat: Lectures, writing, camaraderie, and good food. I’m excited for you and your retreat next year. Take GPS…don’t want you stranded out in Alice Springs.
fantastic, fantastic post. I don’t know you that well – yet – but I know you were selfless in your decision to take care of your mom.
it was so nice to hear the giddiness in your voice as you got the chance to completely relax and do Mike things 🙂
thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks for coming by. Granted, it wasn’t a two-week Hawaiian vacation (I’d visit you), but it did the trick for temporary relaxation.
The whole weekend was giddy, fun, and so spontaneous. Nothing planned, yet never a dull moment. 😀
Yay for getting away!
Yay is right. I needed that! thought I’d finish your book (only a little left), but didn’t do a dang bit of work (although I took it all with me). It was a time for goofing off. Just so much to do…so little time. Thanks for coming by.
I am sooo envious. What a great trip! You deserved it.
Best of luck with NaNo. 🙂
Thanks, Melissa. Whew! This is already proving to be a hectic month.
Sounds like a great weekend. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to get out and relax. The pressures on being a full time caretaker can me intense. Even though there are rewards the physical drain is exhausting. I’m looking forward to the posts about recuperating and relaxing around the home. Good luck on NaNo!
You know, I’m still exhausted from it all, but respites such as this do so much for the soul—not to mention the bags under my eyes. Thanks for coming by. During November, my plate gets rather full (especially at Thanksgiving), but I’ll pop by your place, if not just to say hi. Thanks for coming by and the well-wishes for NaNo. Are you participating? Buddy me and we’ll support each other.
I’ll leave a lengthy comment, to help get you closer to 50,000 words. I’d quote War and Peace but, well, war? What is it good for? Say, did you know that antidisestablishmentarialism is the longest word in the English language? I have no idea how to spell it, or if that’s true, but NaNo should give you credit for at least 12 words for that one.
Anyway, I’m glad you took time for yourself, and that this time included bacon, pumpkin yummies, and a fern afro.
Thanks for dropping by with a note. So glad you and Sis received the package and it means a lot to know she was so moved.
Hugs, my friend.
Yes, I did know that antidisestablishmentarianism is the longest word in the English language…it runs off my screen whenever I type it.
Did you like the fern fro? He looked real Roman Reggae. 🙂
Greetings human, Michael,
Thankfully, I shall give a mercifully brief reply in regards to your rather wordy posting. And thus from acts of selfless altruism, you had the chance to get away. Let the wind chimes of the tree, continue to inspire your words with nature’s music.
And thus, my human friend, I bid thee well.
Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar! 🙂
Well, your pawsitively correct in saying it was a bit lengthy, but it had pictures! They broke it up rather nicely into short chapters, so to speak.
You type rather well for a dog. All my dog ever types is Ruff, Arf, and Bark. Sometimes Howl.
I’m so glad you got to get away! I love to Goodwill shop. I get the bug from my mother who sees it as a modern day treasure hunt.
I got the bug from my mom, too, who saw potential in everything. I guess even me. 🙂
Thanks for coming by, Elizabeth.
Sounds like you got a well-deserved rest!
‘Twas at that, Loni, and thanks for stopping by. Would love to see you again.
BTW, I nominated you for a Sunshine Award today! This post inspired it – it felt ful of light. Hope NaNo is going well!!
Well thank you, Liz!
It was full of light. Such a great, relaxing time. Fun had by all. I’ll be over to pick that up as soon as I can, and thanks again!
I’m so glad you had such a great getaway, I loved reading about it and felt like I was going along with you. Love the thrift shop treasures! And I wish you all the best with NaNo – your Panda’s Smile cover caught my attention immediately, I can’t resist a dog. Good luck!
I’m glad you felt like you were getting soaked in the rain along with all the rest of us, Julie.
And those are treasures! Such a bargain. I plan to make this paste of buttermilk and peat moss and brush it on the sun and moon, stick it in a black plastic bag, and in a few weeks, they will be covered with moss. Then I’ll hang them somewhere on the house. They’re in pristine condition. Gotta age them.
OMGoodness, this was so beautiful! I have tears as I reach the end of this wonderful post Mike. Swag, friends and food, all good and so important!
Amen to that, Susie! Thank you so much for coming over. This was such a relaxing getaway, I just had to share it with friends and followers…hopefully inspire others to take trips of their own.
Mike, I spent wayyy too much time on your “Pursuit of Happiness” post that I’ll have to come back later to read this one. Just wanted to make my intentions known, my friend. 🙂
Nice recap of your getaway. So glad it was a wonderful time well-spent, and you enjoyed it. Those “Swift” souvenirs……..how cool.
Hmm…not so wordy today, now are we? LOL. A lot about nothing…just wanted to share a way I relaxed. Finally. 🙂
I know, right? Not feeling wordy at all today. We humans are so layered and complicated. One day all free-spirited, the next day back in our shells. But you know me, I love to banter with you, so the wordlessness won’t last long.