Packing the Right Suitcase

My husband and I love to travel. Because both of us require only a computer keyboard and, in his case, an Internet connection, we have the good fortune to be able to work–and play–in many different locations. This fall we will experiment with a month-long trip to Switzerland and Provence, where we will hike and bike our way throughout the region. Henry will work three days a week, and I will shop in the markets, using my rudimentary French to buy fresh food for cooking…I’ll add here that cooking is, for me, a relaxing activity, especially when I am not loaded up with other tasks.

When I’m rejuvenating in the presence of nature, new ideas spring forth without effort. Almost as soon as I leave Houston, that “still small voice” begins to chatter away like an excited child, and I can barely keep up. Since I’ve been spending my energy almost entirely in book production lately, I welcome the opportunity to experiment with new material, and perhaps spruce up some drafts that I have lying around.

Today, in preparation for the big trip, we are taking a smaller one to Estes Park, Colorado. We have practiced using our new trekking poles and want some real-world practice, away from Houston’s flat, concrete sidewalks. We have thoughtfully equipped our backpacks to account for weather changes and longer hikes. Of course, this means that packing the suitcase is a different experience. Despite my best intentions to pack lightly, all the equipment takes up a lot of room. It meant choosing a different suitcase. It meant taking fewer changes of clothing, with the intention of re-wearing certain items. It took extra time and care to account for these deviations from my typical packing routine.

Each writing project feels a little like that. Patchwork and Ornament has given me the experience of a book containing visual imagery as well as text. When a Grandchild Dies required me to develop interviewing skills. Exodus demands a deeper observation of the inner self. Blood and Loam, my first novel, provides numerous writing lessons, especially “how not to write a novel.”

As I finish packing my suitcase, I find that in the end, it is packed, complete. Ultimately, if I take my time, everything I need will fit comfortably inside. I may feel a bit clumsy at times. I may worry about whether or not I “did it right.” Sometimes I’ll wonder if I can get the darn thing closed, if I can get everything to fit.

Once my suitcase is filled, I can then travel. Each book’s journey provides an opportunity to meet new people, to learn to skills, and to improve confidence. When I wrote When a Grandchild Dies, I had no idea what a unique and special journey I was about to undertake…and I am looking forward to all the future travels.

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