“Goethe once wrote that all writers are homesick, that all writers are really searching for home. Being a writer is being on a constant search for where you belong.”– Mary Morris, “Looking for Home”
I’ve stubbornly refused to call San Diego “home” since relocating here in 2006. Never one for crowded beaches, deserts and arid land, my heart finds no affinity with the landscape. It’s little wonder, I suppose. I was raised in rural northern California, a place where residents resented Southern California’s drain of our natural resources and periodically sought to secede and be the State of Jefferson.
I grew up among Jack pine and Douglas fir trees, in a small valley surrounded by mountains, part of the Cascade Range, and where summers were spent swimming in cold mountain lakes and rivers. Yet I admit that as I waited in the Oakland airport to board a flight to San Diego on Friday evening, I was eager to get “home” to San Diego. After a week of teaching in Berkeley, I was ready to sleep in my bed, sit in my easy chair, and resume the routines that mark my days: walks with my dog, coffee on the deck while the birds cavort at the fountain and chatter in the treetops, writing in the quiet of early morning.
“I am here alone for the first time in weeks,” May Sarton wrote at the beginning of A Journal of Solitude, “to take up my ‘real’ life again at last.” I suppose that’s how I felt in my return. Whatever city we live in at the moment is less important that the space we shape for ourselves, one that offers that “room of one’s own,” whether a corner of the kitchen or a bedroom turned into office. Remember Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own? Written at a time when women were not allowed into particular universities nor recognized in a literary world dominated by men. Woolf famously said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
There are many analyses of the book, and while I am not a fiction writer, what I took from reading Woolf so many years ago was simply the necessity of making a place for my creative work. Without one free of interruption or distractions, my creative work is compromised. I love my teaching, but it consumes my energy, and when I turn to my writing, I am often spent. Add to that the intensity of the week-long class, “Writing as a Healing Ministry,” one I’ve taught for over ten years and requires I travel to Berkeley each July and reside in faculty housing for the week. At the end of the week, I am all the more in need of reclaiming my routine, the mental and emotional space I need to nurture my creative life.
In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us.—Virgina Woolf
In her delightful book of writing invitations, Room to Write, Bonni Goldberg explains the choice of her book title as “creating room for your writing… Making room in your life to write,” She adds, “generates even more room for your writing.” Creativity doesn’t just happen. Our muses don’t just come whenever we beckon. We have to create and protect the space needed to nurture creativity. Only then will the artist within each of us be fully revealed.
This morning, my dog Maggie and I were once again up at 5:45 a.m. to walk. She knows my routine by heart and seems to find nearly as much satisfaction in the certainty of that walk, as I do, even our time sitting on the deck, and as I prepare to write, in taking her place on a cushion near my feet. We’re at home again, stepping into the comfort of routine and the place we call our own. This morning, even the birds seemed to welcome us back. Hummingbirds frolicked nearby at the fountain; a woodpecker set to work on the century plants below our deck, and a red tail hawk glided over our heads to fly across the canyon. I sighed and smiled. It was good to be here. It was good to be back in place, in the place that is my own.
Think about what it’s like to return to your place after a busy day or time away, the “room of your own” that lets you bask in quiet and solitude, even briefly. What is it like to have that place where you can be alone, and, as May Sarton described, take up your real life again?”