Sunday, August 25, 2013

At long last, a Quiet Holiday



Quiet for me, hardly the rest of the world. Up at the summer-house, to do some long put off labors that include a lot of heavy-duty physical work, which is good for me as I get older. Too much time has been spent at the computer lately, chasing stories across the globe.

So, while I’m here, I still read of raging fires threatening our beloved Yosemite, the build-up to an apparent Syrian involvement, the on-going Edward Snowden story and sad, unsettling news of Chelsea Manning’s 35 year sentence for disclosing to us what the American military has been up to. There’s much beyond that of course, but you get my drift—the world is in a state of chaos, while I refresh my soul and body by digging in the earth, building walls and generally turning away from the earth’s woes to its magical plenty. Two weeks of this, the first such break in ten years, not tuning out, but tuning down.

I’ve often said that writers need a certain amount of ‘down time’ to refresh their creative juices and look more dispassionately at the work at hand. That’s always been true of me as a novelist, but I’ve set such writing aside these past dozen years or so to express my alarm at where America has wandered since 9-11, spiritually, politically and economically. Events on all levels have moved so quickly and, in my mind, devastatingly that it’s been virtually impossible to look away from the various disasters, much less judge them contemplatively from a hammock. Not writerly, I admit. Perhaps not good for me either and certainly my somewhat lonely voice in the whirlwind hasn’t changed a thing. But I felt compelled, as few things in a long life have compelled me.

I mentioned to my wife this morning, over a quiet cup of coffee, looking out from the terrace over this amazing Czech countryside, that an inner voice was urging me to quiet myself. Take a break, pull back a bit and become more observer than participant. Get a grip, dive into some of those long put-off writers I’ve meant to read; trade in Joseph Stiglitz for another go at Elmore Leonard and his like—just for a while, Joe, I’ll no doubt come back when my batteries are recharged. 

Perhaps . . . perhaps not.

When a man or woman has been too long away from the startling pleasure of pushing a spade into the earth or driving a nail into a fresh piece of timber, there’s something wrong what he or she has been doing with their life.

Just saying . . .