En Plein Air

Writing at beautiful Topsail Beach En Plein Air this morning.

 

Watching the BBC program Escape to the Continent last night with Hubby. The featured couple were looking for a house in the Algarve region of Portugal. I’ve never been to Portugal, although a genetic testing kit Hubby gave me for my 50th birthday confirms that part of me hails from the Iberian Peninsula.

At any rate I wanted to smell the sea air and look over an expanse of blue while I worked. Not precisely Portugal but close enough that I could imagine it. Strange to want to be in Portugal while writing a book set here, on the island, but that’s the way my imagination works. Writing in my journal this morning:

The air outside today is what I imagine the Mediterranean must be like, dry and hot with a persistent breeze. You could almost expect to see fig and olive trees growing outside the window. When I was younger than I am now, certain books used to affect me in a strange way. Reading them, I felt like I’d ingested the story physically, like you would consume a food. It lived in me. Before too long it put out tendrils that wrapped around my insides, and I was part of that story. It became my lived experience. The actual physical world was like a shadow behind it. I lived in the story. The reality of the story, of that universe, overwrote actual reality – if reality was even real, and that’s debatable. I can remember being down Long Shore (n.b: a woods path near Hant’s Harbour, where I grew up) by myself when I was young, maybe 11 or 12. There was something there. Not dangerous, but curious about me…I felt like I might meet it around the next corner. 

hharbour2.jpg

I’ve often felt this presence when I’m alone somewhere. The location doesn’t seem to matter; my engagement with it does. It seems to accompany me throughout my life, for whatever reason. I felt it with me when I was walking in Whitechapel late one October afternoon. The shadows were growing long and I was making my way back to my hotel , down narrow streets little changed since the Victorian era. I’m almost never afraid when I’m alone in an unfamiliar place, unless I have cause to be. On this particular day I’d somehow gotten turned around, and the GPS/satellite maps thingy on my tablet decided to quit. I was alone in a huge city, hungry (low blood sugar always makes me irrational) and scared. I had no idea where I was, or how to get where I needed to go. I noticed a group of people crossing the street and something urged me to go with them, so I did. And there was my hotel, right where I’d left it.

I felt it in Nan’s house, one day when we were going to New Melbourne Sands for a picnic in the camper. I forgot something and had to go back in and get it. Alone in the house, I felt this same benevolent presence in the empty kitchen with its billowing gingham curtains and the humming refrigerator. 

I feel like I want to go to the sea today. Topsail Beach, maybe, with my writing. Something in me wants to feel like I’m somewhere else – the South of France, maybe, or the Algarve. Places I’ve never been except in fictive journeys between the pages of a book. It would be ideal to go among people I don’t know and sit at a cafe table on a beach somewhere. I need a change of scene, and the dust on the fireplace hearth will still be there when I get home…

 

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