For those of you suffering with unbearable heat in places like, say, Sacramento or Texas or anyplace on the East coast, I’m going to suggest that you might want to pass on reading this post. It might make you a little jealous or hostile. On the other hand, if you want to look at the following image and imagine yourself in this lovely spot in the middle of a Pacific Northwest rainforest, it might reduce your blood pressure a bit and make you feel just a bit cooler. Go ahead. Look:
This is Lake Crescent, Washington. If I am very good and work my butt off over the course of a school year, I get to have about two months off each summer. In 1999, way back in the previous century, Dick and I “discovered” this place in the way that people think they’re the first ones to find some idyllic spot. We had decamped to Victoria, B.C. (my first time in that lovely city) not long after Dick’s mom had died, seeking refuge and solace, as well as cooler weather. While there, we read in a tourist mag about Lake Crescent. On a whim, Dick called and secured lodging in a historic cabin for a couple of nights, thinking that “it looked kinda pretty in the pictures.” Whoa, baby, was that an understatement. Take another look here:
This is the lodge built in 1916 by a guy named Al Singer who decided, I suppose, that this was the perfect lakeshore spot for one. He was right. It’s still there, along with some outlying buildings that total only 52 guest rooms in this sweet spot. So getting a place to stay there can be tricky. Especially if you dilly-dally about making vacation plans till, say, June, and you want to be there in late July. Which is what happened this year. But I hang with the master vacation planner (no one can pack as much stuff into the trunk of an Accord as Dick Schmidt, baby), who has the best travel karma of anyone I know.
With many persistent phone calls and calendar juggling, he made it happen: three nights at Lake Crescent. For which I am deeply grateful. Especially in light of recent water pipe breakages at my house in Sacramento, if you’ve been reading previous posts. (God bless you, Sonya, for handling all that. Can we send you here as a thank you?) Here’s another Dickie photo (have I said that he is the best photographer I know, up close and personal? or how lucky I am that he likes to travel with me?):
Here’s another reason I love to return here. If you look at the photo atop my blog, that’s me, writing–working on a novel, actually–in the sunporch of the Lake Crescent Lodge at dusk, which, in summer, can easily run till 9:30 p.m. I wrote big chunks of the novel set in British Columbia on that sunporch. I am tweaking it still on this trip late at night, alone on that sunporch. It is a heavenly place for me to get my work done. Also, the Lake Crescent gaggle of Canada geese inspired a scene in that novel. No geese this year. Don’t know where the flock’s got to. Just these guys:
It’s a place that works for me as a writer, and I can never have too many of those getaway spots. My friend Pat Schneider, founder of the Amherst Writers and Artists method, is fond of saying that writers need to get away at least once a year to a place where they can relax, recharge and then write. “Spend the first three days sleeping,” she advises. “Then, and only then, can you start your work.” I didn’t sleep for all of the first three days at Lake Crescent, but I sure did take a long nap every afternoon. Woke up from one nap with the beginnings of a poem buzzing around in my head–always a sign that my mind has finally gone on vacation, too, and that it can finally hear the creative parts that want to be put on the page.
This, for someone who spends way too much time dealing with the minutae of life rolling around the brain cells (and I know I’m not alone in that), is what vacation is to me. People tease me about taking my laptop with me on vacation.
It’s not that I need to check the email as much as I needneedneed to be able to capture stuff that hasn’t been able to be written for the rest of the year. I am grateful for the company of my Saturday writing group, for the space and encouragement those writers offer me to put words on the page. Without them, I think I would be a much unhappier creative person with far fewer spaces in my life to do writing. But this–this is the time when I know, as Tess Slesinger, a terrific author put it in her good short story, “A Life in the Day of a Writer”:
I am a writer if I never write another line. I am alive if I never step out of this room again. Christ, oh, Christ, the problem is not to expand a feeling, but to condense a feeling–all thought, all ecstasy–tangled and tumbled in the empty crowded head of a writer, to one clear thought, one clear form, and still preserve the enormity, the hugeness, the unbearable all-at-onceness of being alive and knowing it, too.