Lonely Road

Next Monday is Labor Day, the traditional return to work and school after summer vacation. I like to imagine tanned adults or children in new clothes sharing cheery stories about their adventures, then passing around photos or showing off souvenirs. And my summer, you ask? Before I answer, let me get this straight: It was summer?

This has been my summer of the computer screen and its relentlessly blinking cursor; of days and nights that traded places, or passed without my knowing; of pacing, elation and tears. This has been, in brief, my summer of the novel. Of the bologna sandwich (eaten at my desk).

In service to my deadline at Blank Slate Press, I’ve turned down freelance work (a very scary prospect for a self-employed writer), banished my dog to a baby pool on the deck, allowed the house to grow dusty, and neglected my friends.

In All I Want (from Blue, [Reprise, 1971]), Joni Mitchell sings:

I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Traveling, traveling, traveling
Looking for something, what can it be…

I’ve always loved those lines. This summer, I lived them. As I’ve focused on my characters and their lives, my own life has receded. This is not a romantic notion. It’s a fact that I sometimes find disconcerting. Give up images of a steaming latte in a coffee shop as I, pen in hand, smile over some clever bit of dialogue I’ve just jotted into my journal. This novel has been HARD WORK. It has demanded focus and tenacity to match any nightmare job I ever faced as a freelancer. It has called me to a level of self-doubt and personal investment that none of those jobs ever could.

My husband, Jim, has (coincidentally?) been traveling a lot on business this summer. His absence left the burden of our house and pets solely in my care. It also left me free to work my OSHA-violating hours (and to concoct all those sandwich suppers). When I fretted via phone, or email or in person, Jim kept reassuring me that the situation was only temporary—that things would soon return to normal. I heard him at a distance—as I have most things this summer.

The last stanza of All I Want begins:

I am on a lonely road and I am traveling
Looking for the key to set me free…

A woman I know suggests that rather than temporarily checking out of my familiar existence, I have, in fact, been creating my new life. I want to believe her. I hope that she is right. I hope…I hope…I hope. This has been my summer of hope.

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One Response to Lonely Road

  1. Kathy says:

    As long is it is not followed by your winter of discontent!

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