The Omni Homestead Hotel in Hot Springs, VA.
The authors get silly.
With the Jefferson Cup committee.
A “running tour” of UVA after a night in Charlottesville.
It is in virtue of his own desires and curiosities that any man continues to exist with even patience, that he is charmed by the look of things and people, and that he wakens every morning with a renewed appetite for work and pleasure. Desire and curiosity are the two eyes through which he sees the world in the most enchanted colours…and the man may squander his estate and come to beggary, but if he keeps these two amulets he is still rich in the possibilities of pleasure.
-Robert Louis Stevenson
My gym teacher is full of clever sayings — so much so that another classmate and I used to keep a running list of as many as we could remember — but I’ve been thinking of one in particular outside of those mid-morning sweat sessions, one that applies to the writing life.
Slow down to speed up.
This is Phil’s regular advice* when someone is suffering from an injury. I’ve been sidetracked by two in the last twelve months — a torn calf muscle, which I learned is a typical middle-aged injury (lucky me!), and a sprained wrist, which I managed when I tumbled off a stability ball while holding a dumbbell. I’m a runner, and I can tell you it’s no fun to be told your running is on hold until your muscle knits itself back together. Neither is it convenient to modify life’s everyday movements to protect an injured part of the body.
Just ask my dog, Boudreaux, who tore her ACL in July (yes, dogs can do that) and had surgery in August. For three months, she’s to be on a leash at all times when she’s outside. She’s not to jump or be involved in any “explosive” movements. Fellow dog owners are probably chuckling over that one. How exactly do you convince a dog not to be her regular self? We’ve drawn curtains to block out passersby who inspire barking and piled various objects on the couches and chairs where Boo usually settles. We’ve helped her slow down so that when the vet says she’s ready, she can speed up again.
So how does this apply to the writing life? For me, it means stepping back from the visible markers of moving forward in my work — the word counts, the finished drafts, the things I can tick off a list that reflect some sort of tangible progression — and allowing myself to focus on the work that isn’t quantifiable but is necessary. Character exploration. Circling back to the beginning to find my way to the end. Sitting with the same ten words I’ve wrestled with for weeks.
It also means divorcing myself from information on the steady progress I’m sure every other author is making. It means not comparing one manuscript’s circuitous journey to the more straight forward unfolding of another.
And finally, it sometimes means setting something aside for a while and allowing myself to rest.
Slow down to speed up. Take the time to do the things that will allow you to eventually regain your previous rhythm with new direction, insight, and strength.
*Alas, no other Phil saying (such as his claim we live in a “quad-dominant society”) can be extended into a writing metaphor!
While cleaning the house last weekend I happened to listen to these two podcasts back to back. Great food for thought for creative sorts…and human beings in general!
Episode #38: Present Over Perfect :: The Simple Show
show description: Fake breaks (that totally aren’t breaks), putting up chairs, when brave looks boring, and being the boss of ourselves: these are the conversation topics Tsh has in this episode with Shauna Niequist, author of New York Times bestseller Present Over Perfect. If you’re tired of hamster-wheeling through your day in search of perfection, you’ll probably like this chat. Plus, Tsh hints at some fun changes headed to the podcast!
Slowing Down :: Ted Radio Hour
show description: We’re always asked to be faster and more precise. But what can we learn from slowing down — even procrastinating? This hour, TED speakers explore why taking it slow is crucial…for all of us.
My friend Jamie and I have dreamed about a Prince Edward Island adventure for years, so to see it finally come together this July was just plain magical. I flew into Connecticut and spent a day with her family (look at the gorgeous veggies those Martins grow!), and early the next morning Jamie and I jumped in a rental car and drove straight through to the Land of Maud.
You might remember I’m a tad obsessed with author L. M. Montgomery. I’ve read all of Maud’s novels, many multiple times. And I’ve committed to re-reading every ten years the journals she kept from the age of fourteen until her late sixties.
Jamie and I both agreed that though the drive was long, crossing the Canadian border and watching the gorgeous landscape grow more rural and hilly and somehow even more beautiful was the perfect introduction to PEI.
The island is rolling hillsides and lovely farms that stretch straight to red cliff beaches. We arrived at our rental — an nineteenth century farmhouse in South Rustico, PEI — during the sunlight’s golden hour.
There were four bedrooms to choose from. Look at mine!
Jamie and I spent the next day in Cavendish at Green Gables Heritage Place, which includes the home that inspired the setting for the Anne series. The home itself was owned by her cousins, the McNeills, and was was within walking distance of the Montgomery homestead.
It was a little strange knowing that while Anne Shirley was not a real girl, this house was set up to reflect her world. That red liquid in the cupboard is raspberry cordial — at least that’s what my imagination told me.
This was meant to represent Anne’s room. Less austere than the picture in my mind!
What’s fun is that Lover’s Lane and the Haunted Wood weren’t only places in the Anne books, they were very much a part of Maud’s real life. Here’s Lover’s Lane.
The Haunted Wood, just beyond this gate, led from the McNeill homestead to the Montgomery’s.
No house remains at the Montgomery homestead, but it’s not hard to picture young Maud’s love of nature developing on this land.
Maud’s childhood school (no longer standing) was near the Haunted Wood and within walking distance of her home. From its window she could see Cavendish Community Cemetery where her mother lay — where she is now.
Here’s a sweet token we found alongside the grave.
That evening, we drove to Charlottetown and saw Anne and Gilbert: The Musical.
It’s a blend of Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island with a few liberties thrown in and was beyond fabulous. Jamie ended up downloading the music, which we listened to during the rest of our stay. Perhaps now that I’m back home, I’ve been known to break into “Mr. Blythe” while making dinner.
On our second day we drove to Lower Bedeque to visit the Leard House, where Maud boarded while teaching at the school across the road.
Fans of the journals and the recent Maud biography, The Gift of Wings, know this house well. While Maud lived here, she and the Leard son, Herman, had a secret romance. Both were engaged to other people. Eighteen months later, Herman died. Maud, who by then had broken her engagement and was living back at home, was distraught but could never truly mourn him as she would have if their relationship had been public. Doesn’t this remind you a bit of Una’s inability to fully grieve Walter’s death in Rilla of Ingleside?
The Leard House opened to tourists just a few weeks before we arrived. Visitors can walk through the upstairs room where Maud boarded and eventually will be able to spend the night there. The downstairs has been converted into the Fable Tea Room.
Jamie and I might have been a little silly about the whole Leard House thing. Evidently, when we arrived, I told the woman who answered the door, “We’re here for Herman,” which entertained Jamie to no end.
Here’s Maud’s room.
And here I am, ridiculously posing with Herman. (At Jamie’s suggestion! I claim no responsibility for this goofiness!)
Downstairs we pored over old copies of Kindred Spirits magazine while eating an amazing lunch (I recommend the lobster roll).
Oh, Maud. You certainly did have a lively time in Bedeque!
The Fable Tea Room tables were covered with various pages from Anne books.
The Lower Bedeque Schoolhouse was a couple hundred yards down the road. Our tour guide was a charming college student who was working his way through the journals himself.
On our way back to Rustico, we stopped in Clifton / New London at the Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace museum.
That evening we had dinner at Dalvay by the Sea, which was the White Sands Hotel in the Anne of Green Gables movie.
As we were leaving, Jamie and I pulled off the road to capture one of the most gorgeous sunsets I’ve ever seen.
On our last day we visited Park Corner, a 110-acre farm which belonged to Maud’s cousins, the Campbells, and the place she felt most at home. While the Campbells still live here, the house is also open to the public as the Anne of Green Gables Museum.
Park Corner served as inspiration for The Story Girl and the Pat of Silver Bush books. If I remember correctly from the journals, it’s Maud who first referred to the Campbells’ house as Silver Bush.
We took a carriage ride past the real Lake of Shining Waters and down to the shore.
Maud was married at Park Corner next to this mantle, where avid fans sometimes hold their own weddings!
After Park Corner, we stopped at the Blue Winds Tearoom, where we were welcomed by this beautiful tangle of flowers.
The building has no direct Anne or Maud connection, but Terry, the owner, is a true Anne expert. She moved to PEI from Japan many years ago because of her love for the series. I recommend trying the New Moon Pudding, which is a recipe found in Maud’s journals and is similar to lemon meringue pie.
From there, Jamie and I visited the Cape Tyron Lighthouse, where the model for the lighthouse in Anne’s House of Dreams once stood. This new lighthouse doesn’t have a lightkeeper’s quarters as the first one did, but it’s easy to imagine Captain Jim there.
I was in the midst of third-round edits for Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine while on our trip and worked throughout our stay in this sweet room at “our” farmhouse.
On our final morning, we packed up our things and waved goodbye to our dear temporary home. Until next time, Prince Edward Island!
Thank you to Prince Edward Island Tourism for making our trip extra special.
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