Out and About

Although it hasn’t happened in a while, there have been times since settling in at our place in central Colorado when I think back over the past week and realize that I haven’t left the property in six or seven or, occasionally, ten days. My record, I believe, is twelve days: a period approaching two weeks in which I managed to avoid getting into the car to go farther than the mailbox a few miles away.

Since I am a confirmed homebody, this realization is cause for bemusement rather than dismay. I’ve designed my life to revolve around being home, after all: I work from home and so don’t need to commute in order to contribute to the household income. We moved here in part because the landscape allows us to do the things we enjoy: hikes depart from the doorstep and a short stroll down to the pasture allows me to catch my horse to go for a ride. The view from our house rivals that of many mountain resorts, so we can recharge our mental batteries out on the deck, partaking of local scenic resources.

I’m not plagued by a sense that my existence is constrained or limited, and my homebound interludes aren’t evidence of scrappy self-sufficiency. Although there are occasions when I’d like to go out but am hampered by weather conditions or car trouble or work obligations, my extended runs of staying around home are a matter of choice. If we run out of milk on a day I’m disinclined to motivate to town, I can usually ask my hubby to pick some up on his way home.

In this context, my schedule last month—November, 2013—was a near-frenzy of coming and going. Instead of staying put, I made three separate road trips in the space of ten days, traveling first to Durango, then Denver, then back up north to Boulder five days later. Because of the distances and the timing of the events involved, each of these was an overnight jaunt (two nights in the case of Boulder, where the extension of a day allowed us to visit with friends).

The time and miles were demanding, particularly given winter weather on some of the legs. I also had work deadlines to fit in between journeys. But the most stressful factor was the event at the  center of each trip: giving a bookstore reading to promote my new book.

Being a homebody and working from home have knit themselves neatly together in a number of ways, including the fact that I’ve spent no small amount of time over the past decade-plus looking around my home place and then writing about what I’ve observed. “Home” has provided both a subject to write about and the conditions in which to write.

Writing is, as a verb, an inherently solitary act. “Writing” is also a noun, however, and the product we refer to using the word is social at its core. Human beings write things down in order to communicate, to establish connections, and to share information with other human beings. Unless it’s something like a journal entry intended to be an exercise in stop motion thinking, a piece of writing doesn’t fulfill its potential unless there’s at least one reader who, somewhere, someday, reads it.

In theory, I’m entirely comfortable with the social component of the written word. I have, in fact, done all the things I was supposed to do in order to provide my little collection of words with the means of fulfilling its destiny in the communal realm. But I somehow hadn’t anticipated that I might someday find myself in the same room with groups of people (small groups, fortunately), who had read or were thinking about reading my book. Giving readings—and organizing my days to allow for the travel involved—is a sign of good fortune in the life of a still-aspiring writer, but this activity represents a new category of work—work that can’t be done at home, in solitude.

Having traveled those miles over Colorado’s highways, having met some readers and visited with friends and made a few new ones, I returned home to more deadlines and out-of-town family arriving for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Last week, the first week of December, an arctic front settled over Colorado. I was out from under obligations and the house was stocked with leftovers. I built a fire in the fireplace and hunkered down. I could only manage three days before I had to go to town, but those days sure did feel right.

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