An American Author in Canada

Authors take vacations, but sometimes they aren’t for avoiding the keyboard. This author travels occasionally with her engineer husband, and most of the time those are working vacations.

What? It’s not vacation if you’re working.

Maybe you’re right. Or not. The third definition for vacation at dictionary.com says: “freedom or release from duty, business, or activity.” In this case, I’m freed from my household duties and my regular activities for a specific purpose: to incite creativity.

Creativity and Canada are a decent mix, I’ve decided.

High Hopes

Sometimes I spend too much time inside my office. The lovely walls with all their inspirational sayings and plaques of my book covers move like a trash compactor (picturing a scene from Star Wars IV here).

Even when the sun pushes back the gray clouds, all I see are the words that need to be rewritten or revised or edited. The list of projects in mid-completion expands to block out everything else.

In short, the creative space I’ve slaved to build in my home office (and on my back patio) works against me.

This is when I need a change of scenery. Sometimes going to the coffee shop works. Or I’ve plugged in at the library.

But in light of the daunting tasks facing me in the months ahead, my muse begged for something bigger.

So when my husband told me he had a conference in Vancouver B.C. and asked, “Do you want to come with me?” I jumped on it.

All I was hoping for was a new view outside my window, a touch of sunshine and maybe a little magic in the air.

Reality Rules

Several people gave me ideas of things to do while I visited this Canadian city. I smiled and nodded, listening but thinking, “I’m not going there for a relaxing vacation.”

No need to rain on their good advice. I even checked into a bicycle tour of the city because that’s something I’ve decided I will do if I go to Europe with my husband on a business trip. It’s a great way to breathe foreign air and glimpse the local sights, all while stretching the flabby muscles in my legs. Sounds like a win-win-win to me!

The weather app (who needs a weather man when you have a smart phone) advised me that it wouldn’t be sunny during my stay. But the first couple days wouldn’t bring precipitation either.

I could deal with that. I’d be able to get outside and walk along the harbor which is only a block from the hotel. Fresh foreign air: check.

Of course, spending time isolated in a hotel room to write isn’t the same as writing in my office. The maid wants to come in and clean. There isn’t food and water close by to keep me fed and hydrated.

And there are no cats to assist me by climbing in my lap and scrubbing their chin over my typing fingers.

The lobby in the hotel has a small area that would work for writing, but it’s pretty busy, and I’m a person who prefers silence during certain stages of writing.

Was this going to be a bust after all?

Expectations Exceeded

Here’s what I wanted to accomplish on this vacation: draft the third installment of my sweet contemporary romance series.

That meant 20,000 words in four days, which is about an average accomplishment for me when I’m in the drafting phase of a story. Five hours of writing per day equals 5,000 words.

Of course, I only had three days in Vancouver. The Monday and Friday of the week were travel days.

Monday was sunny and gorgeous when we arrived. Much better weather than in Portland when we left at 4:30 in the afternoon. My muse perked up her ears and gazed out the window on the cab ride from the airport to the hotel.

Priorities:

  1. Find a place to get coffee and breakfast (sorry, Marriott, I’m not paying $20 to eat breakfast)
  2. Scope out restaurants with great people-watching views for budget-friendly lunches
  3. Set up a snack-stocked writing area at the desk in the hotel room

Oh, Starbucks, how do I love thee? I know plenty of people aren’t fans. Fine. But for less than half the price of the Marriott offering I get a mocha grande (non-fat, no whip) and a yogurt, fruit and granola parfait. Sounds like the perfect breakfast to me.

Better yet? It’s directly across the street from the hotel.

Three blocks down, I locate Waterfront Food Court. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a mecca of variety in eats and bountiful bodies to watch.

Day one, I enjoy falafel and Greek salad while reading on my iPhone and stealing glances at the people flooding through the seating area. Day two, should I eat salad or grab a slice of pizza?

I love having choices.

I packed healthy snacks in my suitcase, but my husband didn’t want me to starve. So he snagged a bag of pretzels and white cheddar popcorn from the offerings at his conference. (I’m pretty sure the popcorn is for him since I don’t like cheese on mine.)

All three priorities met. Better yet? The walkway along the harbor was better than I imagined. Check it out.

Look! Canadian Geese in Canada.

 

Pedestrians on the left and bicycles to the right. Ingenius!

Yes, there are TWO lanes on the path. One of them is for foot traffic and the other is for bicycles (and a few in-line skaters whooshed by, too).

I wanted to share my thoughts on the city, but my post is getting long. Look! A topic for a future post. SCORE!

Is there such a thing as a working vacation for you? Or does it have to be about relaxing and sightseeing?

When Walking is Writing

A month of Thursdays later, and I’m finally sharing a recent creation from my poet-soul. If it surprises you that it’s about walking, I have to wonder how long you’ve been reading after me.

In February, my husband and I took a jaunt over Mount Hood to Central Oregon. In Redmond, we visited our “home” resort – Eagle Crest.

If three golf courses aren’t enough, there’s a river beside a trail. A huge looping paved bike/walking path circles the newer portion of the resort. A rustic fence surrounds a pasture where horses graze.

And mule deer descend on a daily basis to mow the greens with their persistent snacking.

It was winter. And it snowed. In fact, we woke up to white on several mornings and watched peace blanket the world on two snowy afternoons.

But that didn’t keep us from our “daily constitutional.” (Does anyone know why this phrase usually refers to a walk?)

On the first day, a line of poetry came to me as we rounded the bend toward our condo. The next morning, I opened a blank Word document and typed those words. (Yes, I was amazed I still remembered them. No, it isn’t the first line of the finished poem.)

A few other lines followed.

Over the rest of the vacation, I jotted reflections after every walk.

This is the resulting poem.

The Walk

Dry pungent air slaps across senses
Snippy
Like ammonia-cleansed halls

Chill wind slices through jackets
Angry
Like shards of broken windows

Purple berries clutter the trail
Wrinkly
Like a carpet of winter raisins

Mule-eared deer freeze among grass
Stony
Like Medusa’s unlucky prey

Sunlight glints through greenery
Puny
Like Dr. Banner in Hulk’s wake

Voices hum in stops and starts
Tinny
Like an untuned radio station

Rain slashes across cheekbones
Icy
Like a fire hose on duty

Footfalls tramp in tandem
Wimpy
Like a pair of ticking clocks

Sleet whispers across damp shoulders
Iffy
Like an insecure first date

Branches wave unsynchronized
Cheery
Like princesses on parade

Autos rumble on distant asphalt
Noisy
Like a Sunday morning mower

Snowflakes tumble in torrents
Eerie
Like a waterfall of white

Silence presses against eardrums
Weighty
Like water on a diver’s back

Snow whirls from nowhere
Gently
Like a cherry blossom Spring

Have you ever felt poetic after a nature walk? I confess that walking is one of the ways I stimulate my creativity. If I’m stuck on a scene, and the weather isn’t down-pouring, I’ll slip on my walking shoes and take a lap around the block.

Do any of the lines activate your senses? Did you have an emotional response to the poem?

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Two hours makes a difference in a morning run

AM Walk 7182013 017

Summer wanes. One sure sign is the later appearance of the sun each morning.

One of the things I enjoy about summer is the early morning runs. I’ll be outside at 6am, inhaling the sweet peace of a slumbering world.

Unless I want to blunder around in the dark, which defeats half the enjoyment, it is a 7am run come October. Some mornings, when things are especially lazy, I might not make it outside until 8am.

What a difference in the world that awaits me. Two hours and most of the peacefulness is overtaken by wakefulness. So little time yielding so many changes.

What I love about early morning

I’ve been asked many times, “What do you listen to when you’re writing? Or what’s your favorite thing to listen to?” My answer: the sound of silence.

AM Walk 7182013 008At 6am on a July morning, that is the prevailing voice on the wind: silence. It underscores the hum of traffic on the highway, twittering of birds in the trees and occasional barking of a dog.

In my mind, this silence is a major part of the peacefulness of my surroundings.

Watching the sun peek its head over Mount Hood and the Columbia River has an enormous appeal, as well. Summer sun seems to rise and set slowly.

A freshness permeates the air. Not many automobiles have sputtered their caustic fumes. Any wind refreshes the wandering soul.

It’s not that I don’t like people, but they tend to make so much noise. Did I mention that my favorite sound is silence? At 6am, not many people are out and about on the streets and walking path of my town.

How an 8am run is different

The first thing I noticed during an autumn run is the chill breeze. Not so much refreshing as invigorating. Can’t really complain about that.

Traffic noise is tripled. Vehicles zoom past on the highway. Even two streets and a tree break can’t dampen them.

Where there are automobiles, there is stench. Those carbon monoxide emissions appeal to some people (isn’t that why they run their car in a closed garage?) Me? I’d choose naturally scented air, thank you very much.

Because it isn’t unscented. You can smell the blackberries, flowers and fruit when the potent fumes aren’t overpowering everything. Nature’s fragrance.

I have to be watchful for cars backing out of driveways as I run past. They aren’t expecting me, so I must be vigilant of my surroundings. During the 8am run inspiring this post – only three vehicles tried to run me down. I gladly yielded the throughway to them.

Another thing never encountered on the 6am run: a county work crew. On the 8am run, the van from the corrections department drove down my running path like it was a highway. I’m sure the park along the trail will be better for the attention, but dodging trucks on a path not intended for motorized vehicles didn’t improve my outing.

Certain bits of wisdom come to you during an early morning run.

For example, a flatbed truck delivered shingles and other roofing material to a house as I jogged by. I marvel at the conveyer belt transporting the unwieldy stacks onto the roof (I remember my dad carrying them up a ladder on his shoulder).

The wisdom: I want to be the guy at the bottom of the conveyor. He gets to set the pace. The guy on the roof, aided by the gentle slope beneath his feet, must keep up or be swallowed by the influx of materials.

In my town, there aren’t very many morning people. Regardless of the time, I never pass more than four or five individuals. I’m grateful for this because it means I’m not required to share my morning peace with anyone else.

What sorts of things have you noticed are quite different depending on the time of day? Do my readers who live in larger cities find the same sort of emptiness on early morning streets?