Don’t expect anything visionary from this blog. I’m just back from a decadent week in New Orleans and in post-hedonistic fashion, I have a travel hangover. Figuratively speaking, of course.
After an illuminating adventure to some novel location, this is the feeling you get when you embark upon the treacherous deed of unpacking. It’s akin to nausea. Your stomach lurches as you unzip your suitcase, inside out socks flopping here and there, and smell whatever it was you ate last at whatever destination. (I pray Béarnaise sauce comes out of silk easily.) You find restaurant matchbooks, pilfered hotel lotions, crumpled receipts and local attraction pamphlets in the cracks. Your head reels at all the laundry, miscellaneous toiletries, and souvenirs. Your gut says, “Not now, not now. You’re tired. You’ve been traveling all week. You need a break. Zip it up. Forget it. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.” The travel hangover.
So instead of tending to that Béarnaise stain, I’m at my laptop writing. It’s an easy extension of escapism under the guise of ‘work’. I’m happy to be home, don’t get me wrong. My love of traveling would never be complete without the homecoming. It is one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. You go, see, experience all the world’s unknowns, and then come home to the familiar. Nothing is so sweet as waking up in your own bed, having morning tea with your pup whose missed you as much as you’ve missed him; your home smells and fuzzy pjs and the quiet of your head space. I need my home in order to enjoy my journeys away from it. It’s the yin to the yang.
I’m settling in for a short time. My calendar is booked with more travel in upcoming months. Weekend getaways peppered here and there, but nothing major for a while, and I’m glad for it. As much as I love and need to hop on a plane to explore new places, I also need extended days of quiet, uninterrupted writing—long stretches of time where my suitcase sits empty in the closet.
One of the benefits of traveling is the undisturbed reading time. I love planes for reading. Forget the movies, the magazines, and the refreshment cart; forget ipods and iphones and apps. It’s book time! I read The Lady and The Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier on the return trip to El Paso. I’m a sucker for the historical. Just ask my husband. Nothing beckons me more than a good “period” drama. This explains my fascination with Showtime’s The Tudors and HBO’s Rome and The Pacific (debuting tonight!).
Today I started Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love, which I was delighted to discover has a movie version starring Morgan Freeman, whom I adore. I savor a good read-n-see combo. In general, my reading proclivity is like the tide. It ebbs and flows according to my Sarah-centered life weather. I hadn’t been reading at all for a couple of months, too deep in my own second novel revisions to engage with any outside fictional catalysts. Now that those are in my editor’s excellent hands, I’m free to explore other authors’ dreamscapes.
Speaking of dreamscapes: This past Wednesday, I spent a good two hours sublimely lost in a used bookshop on Decatur Street in New Orleans. I love old books. I’m talking books whose yellow pages creak when turned and smell of trees from over a century ago. With the gray-haired owner looking on curiously, I dug deep into the dusty shop’s warped glass bookcases, pulling frayed book after frayed book to the surface. Then, to my surprise, I came upon a near-perfect, bright red book titled Hearts Courageous by Hallie Erminie Rives, published in 1901. What caught my eye was the sensationalized watercolor cover: A woman on a staircase looking ten kinds of love afflicted at a young man in the interior hallway. I had no idea books had such elaborate designs back then. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Inside were more etchings complete with rice paper. The first pictorial has the subtitle quote: “At last yielding… She bend slowly like a swaying lily.” Oh, my! At $6, there was no way I’d leave New Orleans without it. This was my treasure acquisition of the trip.
Then, just minutes ago, in an attempt to get a little more historical background on the book, I Googled it and found just about nothing minus one May 4, 1902 microfiche article from The Washington Times—my hometown paper! Holy cannoli, that stopped me in my tracks. The headline: “Kentucky’s Fair Young Novelist And Her New Work, ‘Hearts Courageous’.” Alongside the feature was a large black and white photo of a bold, young woman with pompadour hair. It turns out Miss Hallie Erminie Rives was born in Kentucky but a long admirer of all things Virginian. The Washington Times 1902 interview was in regards to her newly-released novel Hearts Courageous set right there in the Old Dominion.
I think I stopped breathing for thirty seconds. In case you aren’t aware, I was born in Kentucky but grew up in Virginia and call it my forever home. Does anyone else think it serendipitous that on my first and only trip to New Orleans, I spontaneously come across a book written in 1900 by a female author born in Kentucky whose imagination rests in Virginia? I’m still stunned. A little creeped out, yes, I’ll admit. Thus, in a strange twist of fate (literally), my attention has been completely turned within the hour of writing this blog. I may pause my Feast of Love reading and pick up Hearts Courageous. After all, I believe in providence.
(I retract the opening paragraph of this post. Indeed, I’ve stumbled upon a profound discovery!)
Yours truly, Sarah