The local hardware store must have an overstock of wrenches, because life sure has been throwing a few extra my way. Nothing huge, not life-changing, but day-pausing, and trajectory-changing. A sigh, a “seriously?” and away I go.
In between wrenches I have had some time. Strange, what-do-I-do-with-myself time. Time between a meeting and picking up Chloe from school, where going home would be pointless, but no errand-running could really be squeezed in. I’ve got an hour, what can I do?
Desperate to write, I began carrying my notebook around with me. (Good writer-lady.) I am desperate because I have been letting everything else get I the way of writing. (Bad writer-lady.)
Last week I fed the rebel in me during one of these single hours of free time, and I parked by the riverwalk that runs through the town next to us, and followed the brick path down to the water’s edge, where a sturdy guard rail wouldn’t allow me to go too far in my rebellion and, say, stick my feet in the water. However, a cluster of square metal picnic tables invited me to sit and revel in my rebellion a little.
I got out my notebook and set of miniature magic markers (the tools of all serious intellectuals) and sat down.
Someone was doing their laundry in one of the condos behind me, and just for a moment the fragrance of fabric softener was lifted by the light breeze over to me at my table there at the edge of the rushing river. It stayed with me long enough for me to recognize it, then it was gone, replaced with the return scent of water, stagnant by my feet despite the rushing rapids just beyond the rocks. The high-pitched shriek of sea gulls coupled with the smell of the water reminds me of Florida, while the sound of the rapids reminds me of Colorado. I am at once nostalgic, homesick, and thrilled with my current location, where the sun is burning my arms, and the breeze is cooling those flames.
I have to turn to look at the water. Why did I sit facing this direction? I keep turning around to look at the river, which is what I came over here to see. But I sit with the river to my side as if denying myself the full pleasure of the experience will do me good.
The next day I had a scant forty minutes of time between Life Necessity #1, and Life Necessity #2. There was nowhere I could really go and get back in time to pick Chloe up from school. I considered the Dunkin’ Donuts down the street, but the thought of fluorescent lights made my heart shrivel just a bit.
The town we live in borders a really (no, really) big lake, Lake Champlain. I smile at it whenever I get to drive past it, and often take the long way to wherever I might be going, just to drive past it, and smile. With camp chairs folded up and living in my trunk due to soccer season, this really should have been a no-brainer. But it took me all the way through the Dunkin’ drive-thru (I wasn’t going to deny the Dunkin’ entirely) for it to dawn on me.
I was determined, after yesterday’s river ponderings, to take the opportunity to enjoy myself in the ecstatic task or work, of writing.
The walk to the beach is through a forest, down a crunching path of gravel, already dotted with bright red leaves. I ignored the fact that my clogs (the state shoe of Vermont) were not exactly fit for a beach excursion, and got on my way.
Other than a small group of cyclists, I was alone on the beach. My clogs filled with sand, but I pressed on, hoisting the camp chair up on my shoulder while readjusting my notebook, markers, and medium iced coconut caramel coffee with cream. (I promise I do not order it for the alliteration.)
I situated myself and my stuff and got down to the task of writing. It wasn’t cold, sixty-eight, maybe, so why didn’t I take my shoes and socks off, dig my feet into the sand one last time before the chill really sets in?
Because I talk myself out of things, all the time. Words like “balance,” “productivity,” “realistic,” and “grown-up” pepper my thought process. What abusive words.
How many rivers have I sidled up next to, only allowing myself sidelong access to the satisfying wonder and beauty of it? That day at the river, if I had chosen the seat to my right, my view would be virtually unobstructed, save for the guard rail. But what would bring me even closer would be the seat to my left, with my back to the table. Oh, but what rebellion that would be! The table is where I can work. The table gives me purpose. This notion ignores the fact that my notebook is solid enough to act as a table itself, lending the heavy-duty cardboard support of twin covers.
Still, I wonder at my choice. I park my car and walk to the river, to take it in, to appreciate its accompaniment. And I take a seat facing caution tape and a crumbling brick wall. I wonder, what else do I place between myself and the rivers I seek out, as an act of self-sabotage?
What rivers have you travelled all the way to, only to keep yourself from looking at them head-on?