After checking out of the campground, I crossed over the canal and parked at a park for a few hours. Wrote a couple of pages and did a bit of rollerblading—and ow, did I feel wobbly on the skates for the first time in a year. I did not fall, but I definitely felt that this sign on the path was totally unnecessary!
It was all too short, but very productive. I made some good progress on stubborn chapters that had been bothering me for months. It was maybe a blessing in disguise that internet service at the campsite was crap, so I wasn’t tempted to kick back and watch a movie. Home now, but here are a few pix, looking back:
Four modalities of travel represented here: Walking, biking, barge and tug on the canal, and railroad bridge lifted clear for canal traffic.
Here’s the same barge not long after, going under the Bourne Bridge, which is one of two highway bridges onto Cape Cod.
On another topic, I have sailed forth in the Mothership on a three-day mission to challenge writer’s block on its own turf. No, its turf isn’t here on the edge of Cape Cod; it’s in my head. But here I’m hoping for a more level playing field. No more worrying about tax returns, troublesome batteries in the cars, or any of that. Just me and creative difficulties, mano a mano. We’re going to start with “productive conversations” at the writing desk and see how that goes. If it comes to blows… well, let’s just hope it doesn’t.
Some people say writer’s block isn’t real. They only say that because they’ve never experienced it. Someday I may talk about various factors that lie behind my struggles to write over the last couple of years, but I think not today.
By the way, the photo above is an illustration of a misguided effort to protect the space around the entryway from predicted rain. The rain started around midnight. I poked my head out after a bit to see how things were. I found the awning sagging about a foot down in the middle, full of rainwater. I hastily lowered the corners to release the dam. SPLOOOOSH! Throughout the night, the unexpectedly gusty wind periodically whanged the awning up and down and sideways, soothing the sleeper inside. I wasn’t sure I was still going to have an awning by the time I was up today. But amazingly, it was okay. It is now rolled back in.
Below is a trio of Guardians of the Canal that I spotted while on a brief bike ride yesterday.
I have been seriously in need of a writing retreat for a while. Unfortunately, it’s too late in the season to go off camping in the Mothership. For one thing, the campgrounds are all closed for the year; for another, I’ve drained and winterized the plumbing on board, so as not to get frozen pipes when the temperature drops. But does that mean I can’t use the ship at all? NO! Just the other day, I realized I could drive to scenic nearby locations, park, walk around to clear my head, and then retreat to the back of ship to write. I’ve got good lighting, heat if I need it, a decent place to sit, a small table, and a nice sound system. (The navigation of MP3 files on my thumb drive is primitive, though. I can view the list of tracks on the TV screen, sort of, and use arcane combinations of button presses in an effort to choose what to listen to.)
Anyway. The first time out, I went to Minuteman National Park in Lexington. I called that a mini-retreat, because it got me out of my neighborhood. On my way home, wouldn’t you know, the infernal Check Engine came on, so now I’ve got to get that sorted out. But in the meantime, I figured, what’s wrong with retreating to the ship right in my driveway? Nothing. And so, I hereby designate this as a nano-retreat.
The results may not be spectacular, but I’ve done more writing in three of these little sessions than I have in the three weeks preceding, sitting in my office surrounded by distractions. Whatever works.
It’s been an interesting couple of days. This time last night my phone was screeching warnings to take shelter because of possible tornadoes and flash floods from the remnant of Hurricane Ida, which, having left a swath of destruction across the heartland, was now pummeling the Northeast. The only shelter I had available was the stern of the Mothership, so I just kept my head down and listened to the rain pound on the roof. I was fine, am fine. But I couldn’t help noting the irony that here I was in the path of Ida this weekend, when I’d postponed my original plans, last weekend, to stay out of the way of Henri.
The day before that? Beautiful, sunny. I rode Buckbeak to Woods Hole, looked around at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, where fifty years ago, as a fresh college grad, I knocked on the trailer door of just-becoming-famous undersea explorer Robert Ballard and asked him about careers in undersea exploration. (He was totally gracious to this wet-behind-the-ears wannabe writer/diver who had interrupted his work.) I also stopped by the Landfall Restaurant, where that same summer I’d worked as a dishwasher and busboy, and I had a cup of chowder and chatted with the granddaughter of the man I’d worked for. (She’s now one of the owners.)
Riding back, along the seashore, I stopped to sit and gaze across the water at Martha’s Vineyard, unaware that my friend Richard Bowker (read his stuff!) was over there, taking his own holiday. Neither one of us saw President or Michelle Obama, that I am aware of.
Tomorrow morning I pack up and head home. Was it a good trip? Yes. Did I start to unwind and think meaningful thoughts about my book? Yes. Did I get a lot written? No. But productivity was always a secondary goal. Thinking and rediscovering the threads of creativity was primary. On that, I got a start. I think I have more of these retreats in my future.
I got a good look at my campsite for the first time this morning. It’s nice! A lot of the neighbors have cleared out, the weekend being over, so it doesn’t feel at all crowded.
I stretched out the kinks—somehow the bed didn’t feel as comfortable this time around—had breakfast, and set about to readjust the leveling. (I felt slightly head-down last night, which isn’t ideal.) While adjusting the leveling, which involves jockeying back and forth up onto pyramids of giant Lego pieces…
I learned something important: Always secure your coffee before bumping your ship up and down and back and forth. Or at least make sure the travel mug is closed. After mopping up the coffee from the floor, I determined that I had indeed gotten us more nearly level. (I now envy those big rigs that have hydraulic pistons that emerge from underneath to do the leveling for you.)
I needed to go clear my head. I hopped onto Buckbeak and drove into Falmouth to see the harbor. It is quintessential Cape Cod: the boats, the rustic buildings, the ferries. And I found what could be my next Mothership…
Or I’ll bet this one goes really fast, probably close to warp speed…
Enough of enflaming my boat envy. I went down to where I could sit on a rock and just look at the ocean for a while. Ahhhhh. I actually felt the springs starting to unwind, just a bit. I found myself wondering how many ferries there are in the world named Island Queen. Thoughts about the new book drifted into my mind. I couldn’t take it for long. I had to come back to the campsite and open my laptop.
A week ago, I cancelled a planned writing retreat in the Mothership, because of the approach of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Henri, which at the time seemed aimed directly at Cape Cod. Fortunately for us, Henri turned out to be nothing much for eastern Massachusetts (in unfair contrast to Hurricane Ida, which is right now slamming the poor folks in Louisiana).
So I have come today to Falmouth on Cape Cod in the Mothership, for a five-day retreat. I am ensconced in an RV park, hooked up to electricity and water and internet, and with the blinds closed, I can’t even see the rows of RVs parked nearby. I guess tomorrow I’ll venture out and have a look. (As usual, and not intentionally, I arrived after dark.) One thing different this time is that I brought Buckbeak, my trusty moped, to get around the area on. This is my first time using the trailer that I was so focused on fixing up back in June. It worked great!
Aside from The Ponce Chronicles, I have been completely unable to write for months now. In hopes of changing that, I sit here in the Mothership, quite cozy and comfortable, listening to music I’m piping from my old Zune into the coach’s stereo. And yet I am agitated and anxious because I have not truly relaxed in a manner conducive to thinking in… I don’t know how long. I have five days here to unwind and start remembering what my writing was all about. No pressure!
I have a fridge full of good food and good beer, and also some chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies baked for my birthday the other day. (I just turned 42, give or take a few decades.) It’s a start.
I’ve headed back to my favorite part of Cape Cod for Writing Retreats, this time as my first expedition in the Mothership! Here I am taking command, ready to leave, having worked the dock crew’s fingers to the bone getting everything ready.
A few minutes after this is taken, I hit the spacelanes, full of confidence.
You know, everything looks different from the bridge of this ship. I like this perspective. My, aren’t those F-150 pickups the most adorable little cub trucks? Wait—is that a Ranger like mine, or a toy truck? Must be a toy. My Ranger isn’t that little.
The confidence takes a hit an hour in, when I make a stop and discover what I forgot to pack: my wallet. Drivers license. Money. Credit cards. Nooooo! Grumbling, cursing, 180 turn. Back home for the wallet. Then back onto the spacelanes, somewhat deflated. The more so when the Check Engine light comes on. Gritting my teeth, I forge ahead. Real spacemen don’t stop for no stinking Check Engine lights! Would Neil Armstrong have stopped? Hell no!
(Okay, I eventually stop and scan the code. Non-mission-critical. Steady on course, Mr. Sulu.)
I arrive and set up in the dark. Why does this always happen? Connect water—check. Connect power—check. Remove bike from bed in back and lock it to the picnic table—check. Check that we’re level. Oh no. The site isn’t level. I jockey back and forth in vain. I wonder if this is why there’s a bag in the back marked “Levelers” full of oversized Lego pieces. I wonder what to do with them, hoping it doesn’t involve jacks. The internet comes to my rescue. It doesn’t involve jacks, but we’re not done setting up yet. It’s gonna be a long first night. Well, at least the wifi router in the cabin connects to the campsite wifi without trouble. (Yet…heh-heh.) Things will look better in the morning. Repeat after me.
Here’s the Mothership in daylight. Things do look better.
And here’s what you do with those oversized Lego pieces. You drive up onto them.
And here’s what you do to reward yourself. The campground is literally right next to the bike path.
Last writing retreat of the year, this time in the Falmouth/Mashpee area. Little cottage in the woods, little man by the laptop stood. Close to a marine estuary, very quiet.
It’s not far from here to the Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth, which I was looking forward to exploring for fresh air and Nature and exercise. I got three minutes into my ride when I realized that the whup-whup-whup from my front wheel was not bumps on the trail, but a bulge where the tire was getting ready to blow. Gahh. Good news: lots of bike shops in the area. Bad news: none of them carries the odd size tire my eccentric recumbent uses. So… no bike riding this trip.
On the other hand, I’m on the edge of a big wildlife refuge area, so there are lots of trails and whatnot. Also, the ocean, where Vineyard Sound expands into Nantucket Sound. Beautiful! In the second photo, you can just make out Martha’s Vineyard on the horizon.
Also, words are being written. Actual words. Of a novel. Yay.
Nearing the end of the second of the three writing retreats I have planned. I’m back on Cape Cod, but this time at an Airbnb spot, a charming studio apartment with a kitchen so I can fix most of my meals. Less beagling myself with wonderful seafood, but maybe this time I won’t put on eleventy-seven pounds the way I did last time. Here’s a picture of the pond near where I’m staying.
At first, it didn’t seem to be working. And then… some words came. And then some more. Today’s my last day, so no pressure.
I’m also, intermittently, reviewing the just-recorded audiobook files for Crucible of Time. It’s great! More news soon on the audiobook front.