It surprises me, I have to say, how aware of it I feel sitting here by the pool in this most lovely courtyard in Key West. I am alone, you see, traveling alone, something that is not necessarily new to me. And still the solo nature of it all has heightened every sense I have. The wind, tropical but January-cool, carries the sound of the leaves all around that blow and wave and rub. Each is a different green, and the late morning sun shifts the colors moment to moment, the canopy above me a changing show of dance and light. The Hemingway cats, six-toed and fat, stretch and meow and saunter. And in a marvelous twist on all that is represented by this island’s hedonistic brand, in the distance I hear church bells ringing.
Why is this? I wonder. What is it about spending (nearly) a week alone that turns up the volume?
I know, of course. I’m making good on a promise to live more courageously, to be more adventurous, to go more boldly. And while the story I repeat to myself is that it’s solo travel, the honest truth is I am here to realize a life-long dream of studying fiction writing with my favorite of favorite authors, Lee Smith at the renowned Key West Literary Seminar Writers’ Workshop.
(It took a shot of bourbon for me to apply for this coveted spot and another when I received word I was in.)
I take my first dive this afternoon. And for the next four days, I’ll push every writer comfort zone boundary I’ve developed–and more than one solo traveler fear. I’ll do so with this familiar mantra in my head:
You don’t serve the world by playing small.*
Live courageously. Be more adventurous. Go boldly.
There is something to love about each season, every month, those nearly imperceptible day-to-day shifts in nature that keep things changing, time rolling on. I believe it to be one of the universe’s most brilliant design characteristics—a gentle nudging that keeps us mere mortals (who can tend to become a bit set in our ways) always moving forward. It’s true in bud-rich Spring, on that we can easily agree. But it’s true in January, as well, this time of quiet gray and soft light, this month in which the world around us whispers Take a breath. Take a moment. Take stock.
There was a complicated set of circumstances that resulted in them all being here at the same time, these college friends: family holiday travel, a fabulous New Year’s Eve party in Charleston, move-back-in day at Clemson. Low and behold our house is situated right here betwixt and between so many of these goings-on; it just made sense for our place to be the layover spot.
How lucky for me.
Because for two nights and three days, I got to chill with Eliza and her best college buds, watching movies, playing games, and generally hanging out, holiday break down-time style.
The whole episode served to remind me of some things buried under a layer or two of grown-up life work, worry and busyness.
An entire day on the sofa in your softest clothes can be a very good use of time.
There’s a valuable bit of perspective to be gained surrounded by friends who tell you God’s honest truth about whatever it is you’re remembering/considering/discussing.
Play. Play cards, play games, play let’s try on every hat at Mast General Store! Just play.
Free food is good food, as Eliza explained to me before they arrived. But a really good meal served in a candle-lit dining room is magical.
Good news to all who woke a bit blue this morning. Christmastide is here! Christmas is a season, not a day. Advent asked us for many days of watching and waiting. Now Christmas asks us for 12 days of joy. Party on. Take time and eat well. Enjoy the ones you love. See good movies. Take walks. Give the kids a little extra space. Pray for peace and goodwill the world over. Save a little gift for a surprise later. In all, thank God for all the joy.