Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Retreat to Shell Point


Some writers can put together sentences with kids playing in the next room. Or when a hungry spouse is waiting to have supper. Or when the laundry piles up. I’m not that kind of writer. In fact, I am gratified to hear of other writers, like myself, who have trouble working at home.

At the end of the day, when I’ve accomplished many household tasks, revived friendships, kept in touch with the family, I realize I haven’t worked on my writing. It’s not that I don’t value my writing, but there are so many intrusions, even if they are pleasant. The obligations of my home, family, and friends are ones I cherish and joyfully fulfill.

But at the end of the day, I’m disappointed that I haven’t made time to write. That’s why I’m getting out of town. Saturday I’ll leave for a week in Beaufort, SC, an area that’s the background and setting for my antebellum novels. If I could have another home, it would be in Beaufort, not only because of its involvement in the controversial history of slavery, but because it has deep spiritual roots.

The apartment where I’ll stay overlooks a tidal marsh. The coming and going of the tides settles me into a comfort I don’t find anywhere else. Often there’s a breeze in the dried marsh grass and a smell of the mud flats. I can almost feel the subtle, quiet movement of the tide as a physical sensation. It’s a kindly reminder that time has existed before me and will continue when I’m gone.

While I’m at Beaufort, I’ll drive out to St. Helena Island and sneak a look at Tombee, the plantation house of Thomas Chaplin whose diary drew me into an enduring interest in my antebellum history. Since it’s privately owned, I can’t go inside, but just being near the place inspires me. I’ve been before. It’s like visiting an intimate friend but one who is enigmatic. It gives rise to reflection on the past, a place where I’d much rather visit than live.

I hope to make some progress on what should be my final antebellum novel. Last December I was excited with the story, ready to get back to Tilmon and Rio. I hope I can recapture some of that enthusiasm.

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