Big Sky, Blank Paper

July 23, 2019

I don’t feel like writing. Creative writing, I mean – the novels and short stories I write that bring me such pleasure. It’s not writer’s block, at least not how I understand writer’s block. I have plenty of ideas floating around in my head that I’m itching to write down. I’m not avoiding or procrastinating. There are plenty of days when I don’t feel like writing, yet I sit down and do it anyway. This is different. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It.

As I’ve struggled to find my way back to my happy writing place, I read a blog post that helped. It’s titled “Motors” on “Andrew’s View of the Week”. He has a clever writing style using metaphors interspersed with engineering terms. Anyway, I think I’ve run out of creative energy and I need to recharge my batteries.

How do I recharge? People. I’m an extrovert, so social situations energize me. I’m very high energy, and I like new and different stimuli – people, places, food. Cities are filled with energy. So, what better place to recharge than going to two new cities on vacation?

In my last post, I talked about going to Portland. Here, I’ll talk briefly about Seattle and our train journey across country. I was especially looking forward to the train where I’d meet all new people and recharge. But first…

Seattle has hills, not quite San Francisco hills, but big ones! I’m sure we lost weight. We stayed by the Space Needle, but the highlight for me was the Chihuly Glass Garden. All I heard was there were amazing glass sculptures. A perfect description.

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Was I inspired to write? No.

The waterfront tourist area was fun; we had some great seafood. We especially enjoyed Pike Place Market, where we watched them “throw fish” and had the very best clam chowder and seafood chowder at…. Pike Place Chowder! If you go, it’s well worth the wait. And DON’T waste your time and money on an underground tour. That was stupid.

I still wasn’t in the mood to write, but I had high hopes the train journey would alleviate that.

After a couple days in Seattle, we boarded the train for our 50+ hour journey across country. We got a roomette, which is a sleeper room about the size of a dinner booth. Really.

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Meals in the dining car are included in the roomette price, and since there were just two of us, the hostess would seat us with other travelers at the booths for four.

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When we went to dinner the first night, I didn’t feel like talking to strangers, a feeling I attributed to being tired. However, I felt the same way the next day at breakfast. I put on a happy face and was social but I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to be by myself.

I strive for balance in my life and that includes some solitude, but I’d never felt the need for it on vacation. The new people were draining me. For a description of this feeling from a self-proclaimed introvert, check out Quaint Revival, where Shelley describes how an introvert feels in social situations, an eye-opener for me.

So, there we were on the train with hundreds of strangers in close proximity. And, I admit, we were a bit disappointed by the view. We were in the Great Plains. The flatlands. There’s nothing there except some distant mountains we saw for about 10 minutes.

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I had gone back to the roomette after an energy-draining lunch, while my boyfriend went to the observation car. I decided it was time to write, whether I felt like it or not, and I definitely did not feel it.

I pulled out the small table, and retrieved my writing tablet and pen. My arm felt like dead weight. It was all I could do to lift my arm and rest my wrist on the table.

I stared out the window determined to find some beauty. Gratitude welled up within me for seeing the country in a way I never had before. I continued staring out the window looking for something… anything. And then I looked up.

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It was like being in a snow globe. The sky went on forever. BIG SKY. Images of cowboys and campfires and roundups flooded my brain. The clouds were amazing.

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I saw submarines lined up. I saw a pig relaxing on its back. Go ahead, you can think I’m crazy. None of my friends saw anything other than clouds. (And do submarines even line up???)

I went a little nutty snapping pictures of clouds. And I started writing… not a whole story, just fragments.

Then the rain started, bringing contentment with it.

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The desolation frightened her a bit but the new life she was steaming towards had to be better than the one she had left behind…

What had she done? Where was the town? Her mother had told her repeatedly not to do this, but she was determined. Having grown up in the city, she hadn’t known there was this much unpopulated land. Arrgh. Then a dark-haired man strode through the rail car, his boots clomping. She caught her breath as he tipped his cowboy hat her way revealing bright blue eyes. Maybe this would be okay after all. (yeah, yeah, mostly cliché but it’s a start)

Big Sky country. Montana. I want to go back. Stay on a dude ranch. Ride horses.

North Dakota boasted the bluest sky I’ve ever seen, a sky almost as big as the Montana sky. And then I saw the rainbow. God’s promise. The sight filled me with joy.

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We traveled through a few more states, and I wrote a bit more. By the time we returned home, my batteries were about half charged. I’ll continue to seek out solitude and big nature, and I’m confident I’ll be back in my happy writing place soon.

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Read and Write in Portland

July 9, 2019

Portland, Oregon is a great place for readers and writers, something I discovered on my recent vacation.

My boyfriend and I decided to visit his son in Portland for a few days, spend some time in Seattle, and then take the train home. Since Portland is purported to be walkable, we booked a hotel downtown. After taking the light rail from the airport, we walked into the Heathman Hotel.

This is the hotel lobby lounge. Out of view is a fireplace with a sofa and chairs.20190616_082224 (2)

Nestled on the bookshelves, I saw:

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Yep, a melting clock. 

Reluctant to leave all these books, we eventually made it to our room, where we found:

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How cool is that, although I don’t get the “edit sober” idea.

The next morning, I went running along the Willamette River. Portland is called the city of bridges, among other things. You can run on most of the bridges, so I did.

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After some fabulous coffee and the farmers’ market, we went by the central library, where there are 22 benches etched with famous writers’ names. Check out the description of the library here. They also have The Sterling Room for Writers.

We went to Pioneer Square, also known as Portland’s living room.

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Then onto the place at the top of our to-do list — Powell’s City of Books, the biggest bookstore in the world.

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Powell’s could be called SHOCK and AWE. New books, used books, bestsellers, staff picks, signed copies, popular books, obscure books, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, every subject imaginable, with mugs, t-shirts, signs, tchotchkes and a coffee shop.

I wish I had taken pictures inside but I was too happy and overwhelmed. My boyfriend had gotten there before me, so he texted me to meet him at the information desk. Ha. I didn’t see him but I did see signs pointing to the purple room and red room and orange room. There are 9 color-coded rooms, 6 or 8 of them with an information desk. It took me awhile to find the right room, simply because the place is so huge. I followed the signs and eventually found him.

If you think people don’t read anymore, Powell’s will renew your faith. After spending a few hours there – we would have liked to stay longer but had more to do – we bypassed two checkout lines 25 people deep and got into the short line of about 15 people.

A reader’s version of heaven.

You’d think I came away loaded with books. I didn’t. I only bought one.

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My boyfriend bought a bunch of books, including this one.

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I weighed the books when we got home. On the first full day of our 9-day vacation, I bought a 4.4 pound book, and my boyfriend bought a 3.8 pound book. Note to self: Never do that again!

Back at the hotel that evening, we hung out in the hotel lounge library. Ahh… so relaxing surrounded by all those lovely books.

The next day, we headed back to the river, where my boyfriend’s son had booked us all on a river cruise for Father’s Day. It was quite nice, and the food was good, something I don’t expect on boat rides. I especially enjoyed the bottomless mimosas!

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We had a great time in Portland, and then we boarded the train. I’ll write about that next time.

Oh, and by the way, none of these places paid me to write about them, although they should have.

Happy reading and writing.

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Have you vacationed in a spot that seemed tailor-made for writers and readers?


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