Details and Mindfulness

I just read Melanie’s blog post about her experience at the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I went to the same exhibition and, even though I went early in the morning before all the school children arrived, I still needed help solving the crime puzzle. Obviously I need to hone my skills at observing the details.

My life has been so hectic in the past few months, I am proud just to say that I am keeping up with everything. Yet, here I am heading for a long road trip where I can slow down and look. We are going through Santa Fe, New Mexico. The home of my favorite artist, Georgia O’Keefe!

Again, for those of you not familiar with the art of Georgia O’Keefe, please Google. Again, I will wait for you. She painted a lot of big flowers and a good deal of the landscape around the Santa Fe area.

One of my favorite quotes of O’Keefe’s is the following:

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”

An artist like Georgia O’Keefe sees the beauty in the detail and gives us a painting to help us see. Doesn’t a writer do the same thing? Take an event, a moment or a thought and give it words so that the reader can read and understand.

Going on this road trip means that I will completely change my surroundings. I am a city chick. I like a big city and the energy it produces. The sounds of the city relax me and I feel a part of the big scheme of things. Now I am going outside the big city to cities that are much smaller and further apart. I want to see everything.

More than 20 years ago I traveled to New Mexico. I drove between Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Abiquiu (toured Georgia O’Keefe’s home). I remember pulling over to the side of the road just to admire the beauty of the mountains all around me. After living so many years along the flat Texas coast, the mountains are a miraculous sight.

I also practice mindfulness meditation which helps me to stop in the middle of all of life’s craziness and just be. Sometimes it is just best to sit down and be quiet.

Looking forward to being mindful in Boulder.

Writer as Detective Observer

Semi‐bored, I sauntered through the Sherlock Holmes exhibit. A passel of schoolchildren entered the hallway and careened along its blacken walls. I winced. Turning to my right, I glanced a casual side‐eye to spot the piece of paper. It seemed an afterthought in the glass case until I read its message. Eerily appropriate for this day, this time. Indeed, my life this year:

Richer storytelling inspired by unexpected sources

Holmes’ words around “The Art of Observation” propelled me back to his era. As quickly, my mind jerked me back to where I stood. A whipsaw journey for an ex‐reporter absorbing too much of daily surroundings, fast‐forwarding to a writer determined to grow her storytelling skills. Further afield lies a chauffeur‐in‐waiting, prepping for a 19‐day road trip.

Was the Universe trying to tell me something? 

I stopped and turned back around. The rousing antics of youngsters faded away. I leaned in to peer beneath the glass. Sherlock Holmes’ advice about seeing but not observing left me blushing “guilty!” He wrote of inspiration, forensic science, discovery.

I read on and begin to substitute words. Personalize. Connect. Words written in the 19th century morph into new meaning in the 21st.

Observations captured here, for later translation…

Storyteller becomes detective, exploring the why of characters doing things as they do, propelled by setting, mood, temperature, intangibles awaiting discovery.

I am a writer; observation begins everything in my profession.” 

My heart pounds, remembering what’s approaching. A road trip through three states across 19 days. With a fellow observer. There’s something for both of us to see, observe. Discover.

Thanks for the reminder, Sherlock. Or is that “thanks, Sir”?

We’re all detectives — or can be — if we see lightly, observe deeply.

Go Local, not Global

In advance of this weekend’s kickoff of the summer vacation season, Bloomberg published a glorious photo essay of what it called “the‐10‐best‐global‐road‐trips‐to‐try‐this‐summer.”

My reaction came fast and hard: go local, not global.

Think of all the things you can see right where you are. Or within a few miles from where you live. Or after a few days on the road.

This time next week, Ellen and I will have driven across the cityscapes of Houston and Dallas on into the rural grasslands and canyonlands of Texas before driving high into New Mexico’s mountain lands then leveling out over Colorado’s dry grasslands, ending two straight days on the road in the flatirons of Boulder.

That’s 16 hours of a one‐way trip only two days from home.

From the coast lands to the mountains, we’ll see beauty everywhere. Because we’re looking. Really looking. And that’s the point this Memorial Day weekend, the kick‐off of the summer vacation season.

Look where you travel.

Look local.

Of course, this comes from the RoadBroad who wrote in her bio that she’s determined to spend the night on all seven continents.

As an old newsman I adore told me once, “never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

I won’t. Not on this blog post.

Priming, Preparing and Packing

Once upon a time I used to think that I knew how to pack a suitcase and prepare myself for a vacation. I have done it before. I have gone places and returned home quite successfully. Then I began planning a road trip to Boulder with Melanie.

Who can forget anything with a list like this?

One of the first documents that Melanie gave me while discussing our road trip was a simple piece of paper that said, “PACK THIS!” On this simple piece of paper were lists of things to take with you when packing for any conceivable travels. I glanced down at all of the 17 sub‐lists and immediately wondered how I ever made it anywhere by myself.

I can remember when I used to work full time in an office setting, there were days when I surprised both myself and my co‐workers with the ability to dress myself in the morning and have all articles of clothing land in the right places. However, I blamed this little quirk on the fact that I have never been a morning person and really cannot function without at least one cup of coffee.

Now I have a list that I can look at any time of the day or night fully caffeinated and wonder how many more suit cases I am going to need. It is truly daunting.

To begin with, do I really need a list to remind me to pack underwear? The list also specifies to pack a tuxedo. I’ve never owned a tuxedo. Great, now I have to go shopping before I leave town. Guess I’ll pick up some more underwear while I’m at the store.

There is also a line item for anxiety medications. Really? What does this list know about my road trip that I don’t? I am hoping for a couple of relaxing days while driving and seeing parts of the Southwest that I have not seen before. Yet, apparently now I have to worry about anxiety and what to do about it. That makes me feel quite anxious!

The good news is that I only have to prepare and pack for myself. Melanie is in charge of the automobile. Normally when traveling with others, I will ask if the tires have been checked, have all the fluids been topped off, etc. I did not have to do that this time. As you just read, Melanie is the official keeper of all particular detailed lists. I know she has this handled. Then, as if I had asked, she told me about some minor car repairs to make sure the air conditioning was working. Good. Air conditioning is good. Especially since day time temperatures are already reaching into the high 90’s. It’s not like we will be driving through deserts and mountains and such. I am glad Melanie is in charge of the automobile.

We are taking Melanie’s SUV because it is bigger than my Prius. With two of us traveling we need the extra space to pack all of the things on the “PACK THIS!” list. We may pick up a friend at the Denver airport on the way to the writing retreat. Friend may have to lie in the back on top of the luggage. What fun!

Now I am off for more priming, preparing and packing.

Boulder Bound: What Am I Doing?

I am now a full‐time writer. I have waited a long time to say that and it feels good. Right now, I am getting ready to head out on a long road trip to Boulder, Colorado with one friend, books, journals, lap top, and hopefully at least a little good sense. My friend, Melanie, is traveling with me. I am packing the books and journals. We will have to wait and see about the good sense. 

Hannah preps for her own road trip.
Hannah readies for the road trip…

The cat in the picture will try to go with me, but she will stay at home. Many thanks to Jim and my great team of house‐sitters and cat‐sitters who will look out for everything while I am gone.

Two months ago, I was a full‐time Social Services administrator for a local governmental organization. I was your “tax dollars at work”. During these last two months, I have had surgery (which restricted movement for six weeks), then I had to speak in front of a crowd at a cemetery for the placement of a historical marker, then I had a major water leak in my home thanks to my upstairs neighbor, then I retired from the governmental bureaucracy.

I had planned to spend my first week of retired life in my night gown, sleeping a great deal, reading and watching junky television. Instead, I was visited daily by contractors and maintenance personnel who repaired walls, ceilings and floors damaged by the water leak. Fortunately, within 2 weeks all home repairs were complete…all except for the dust. Thanks to a great team of professional housekeepers for helping me to clean up.

Needless to say, I still haven’t had my week of sleeping, reading and couch potatoing and now I don’t have time. I am Boulder Bound! Melanie and I are attending a writing retreat in Boulder. Enroute, we will stop and visit a few sites. It’s my first trip to Colorado and I want to see as much as possible.

What does it mean to be Boulder Bound? It means I no longer work in an office. I am a writer. I can write at home, at a coffee shop, or while gazing at whatever mountains I keep hearing everyone talk about in Boulder. Hopefully by the time I return home, I will know the names of the mountains.

Being Boulder Bound means I am hitting the road to see what there is to see. On the road. I almost feel like Jack Kerouac using the “essentials of spontaneous prose” to outline my journey. Before, during and after the retreat I will share my existence and experiences with a couple of talented writers exploring the depths of our visions and talents. Unlike Kerouac, I will probably skip the substance abuse and sexual experimentation.

Okay, for anyone who does not know about Jack Kerouac and his book On the Road which was published the year I was born, please Google now. I will wait.

I have several writing projects, but while in Colorado, I will be working on one in particular. This project involves my writing about growing up in Memphis, Tennessee during the 60’s and 70’s. Like now, it was a time of great change in both me as a person and in the society and culture that surrounds me.

Wish me luck with my journey! I will keep you posted on everything (or almost everything) that happens.

My Why for a Blog “Yes!”

The idea dropped in like a dream.

Start a blog for the road trip part of your Colorado writing retreat. Then use your earned knowledge and skills for the later novel road trip. 

After a lifetime as a hired writer for others’ words, I’m shoulder‐deep in my first novel. It’s a classic journey story about a woman who hits the road to reconnect with old college friends. She finds them — and, of course, herself — along the way.

I’ve been working on this novel for nearly 11 years now. Here’s a sampling of what’s accumulated:

Two of five piles: more eek!  
Eek! Here’s h‐a‐l‐f the jump drives that contain my WIP.

And that’s only part of it. Real Life got in the way. During one five‐year period, my extended family experienced a hospitalization or a funeral, on average, every three months. Non‐stop. Did I mention that 14 of those hospitalizations involved me and my brain?

Writing fell victim to healing. Despite the lengthy interruption and massive accumulation, I return to writing with a goal of novel completion this year. The plan includes this blog in that strategy.

Learn how to blog on a road trip. Make this fun. Keep it relaxed, and easy. As relaxed and easy as WordPress can be.

Write like a fiend. Remember, everything on the road is a potential blog post, be it words, photos, or video.

Report like a wise version of the reporter you used to be. Seek the unique in whatever form it manifests.

Observe, observe, observe.

Demonstrate what a founding member of the RoadBroads does. Prove it can be done.

You’re never too old to learn.

Besides, one good road trip must lead to another.

It all makes perfect sense.

I think.

About this Blog

This blog came to life, courtesy Ellen, who prefers road travel to soaring skyward. She suggested driving to a Colorado‐based writing retreat in June, 2018.

Melanie answered with two words, one of which can be repeated in mixed company. Young children, however, would probably be confused. C’est le vie — it wouldn’t be the first time either of us has been misunderstood.

Post‐writing retreat, we contemplated life sans RoadBroads. Should we continue this blog? We both proclaimed a loud two‐word answer, identical to Melanie’s reply to Ellen’s initial query. Amazing what happens when two women writers get to know each other on the road.

We’ve dialed back the blogging to one post each per week. Periodically, we’ll post a guest blogger — another woman writer, on the road — reporting some kind of trip and what she’s learned.

We can all learn from each other.

Looking forward to the lessons offered via observations, discoveries, and experiences. The good. The bad. The ugly. Adventure is all this, most especially the ugly. 

It’s only roadtrips. With two broads and some special guests.

Join us?