Thursday, July 26, 2007

Why Go on Vacation

Posted by Lynne

Salt mist accompanies me on my way to work. As I walk down the hill to my office, depending on the weather, I'm either greeted by low-slung fog stalled over gray water or cerulean waves rocking the boats that dot the inner harbor. I live in a beautiful seaside town south of Boston.

But I vacation in Maine.

There, the lake is predictably glassy and calm until a jet ski burps by or a pontoon glides past the wooden dock on it's jaunt around the lake. Then a handful of ripples complain their way toward shore. One, two, three; they hit the piney shoreline, and then the lake resumes it's nap.

Everyone, from family member to client to friend, who sees where I live and work asks me, "Why would you ever need to go on vacation?" It's true I'm blessed to live in a glorious place. The east coast of Massachusetts is for many their top vacation destination. Chickadees and mourning doves announce morning, hydrangeas and salt water perfume the air. Swimming is for the brave or those who attempt it in August, hoping the sun's rays have worked their magic to keep the headache from reaching your feet.

For me, Maine is my family's respite, we all go and we all adore it. We bring piles of books, ban technology and spend hours in, on and around the lake. My week in Maine is also my annual writer's retreat, though I rarely write when I visit.

In this lakes region, one I've come to love and I admit think about frequently for the fifty-one weeks a year I'm not there, nurtures the writer in me. I don't attend workshops, or complete writing exercises. I don't read like a writer or even read about writing. Instead I drink in my surroundings. Loons wail well into the night, pine essence is everywhere you walk, it wafts through the air and crunches under your feet. The cool water isn't just for courageous swimmers, it's for early morning canoe rides with my husband, and afternoon games of four-way frisbee and diving off the dock.

My vacation is a time to spend precious moments with the people I hold most dear, that's for sure. It's also a time I use to notice the world anew, to savor the things I take for granted in my fast-paced everyday life. When I hear the cry of the loons, it helps me appreciate the mourning doves that line the phone wires outside my farmers' porch back home. When I breath deep the smell of pine, I'm more able to conjure the sea mist that surrounds me on those mornings I race to the office.

New locations have the power to awaken my senses and this heightened sensitivity, like a gift, gives me details for my writing. Specific, multi-sensory details; ones I'll use here and there to make my writing authentic, to bring readers into my story.

What do you do to make your writing authentic? Have you taken a field trip that provided you with details to treasure?


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh Lynne, this sounds superb. I'm a lake lover too--and you've captured the essence of it so well. I also appreciate how you've explained that sometimes the best thing we can do for our writing is to NOT write. Instead, we need to soak in our surroundings, unplug, as you say, and fill ourselves while taking note of what's around us. Then, when we are ready to write, those details are waiting for us to put them on paper.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hi Judy,

It was superb, which is why the vacation stays with me for the rest of the year. And you're so right about storing up details so that when you write they just come. It's one of the neatest parts of writing for me.


Lisa said...

Being out in nature as a sentient being, an open receptor to all the sights, smells, sounds, textures and tastes around us is so vital. I learned an excellent, incidental tip at the retreat I attended last week. Denver's Poet Laureate, Chris Ransick was leading a book discussion on The Wild Braid, by Stanley Kunitz (former US Poet Laureate who died in 2005 at the age of 100 -- incredible book, incredible New England essays and poems). Chris mentioned a workshop he once attended in northern California and one of the books listed as required was a local field guide. It made me realize how limited my vocabulary about the Rocky Mountain flora and fauna is and I thought it was a great way to help with the descriptions of nature. Your imagery of the coastline near your home and of the lake in Maine is beautiful.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thank you for taking us along with your gorgeous phrasing, as well as reminding us to fully experience and memorize every detail.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

What a wonderful story. And I adore your idea of reading local field guides. That's a marvelous research tip.

I promise to take you along literally some day. What say you about the Writers' Group takes a field trip?


Lisa Marnell said...

Okay. Sign me up for the field trip to Maine! Honestly, Lynne, when I read your post this morning I thought of summers I spent on a lake in New Hampshire. I can only imagine how calming and inspiring it must have been.

Welcome home and thank you. Lovely start to my day!


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hi Lisa,

There's nothing like it, is there? Glad I gave you a sensory reminder.


Larramie said...

You have the best of both worlds, Lynne, with a beautiful home location and an absolutely idyllic summer retreat. Better yet, you appreciate both and realize that each one complements the nurturing you and your writing needs throughout the year.

Anonymous said...


Like yours, my family has vacationed over the years lakeside in Sebago. This year we vacationed on a beautiful Cape Cod bay where my daughter got married. I am destined to live near water and hope and dream that someday I can. What an inspirational place Sebago Lake is. An almost magical setting that lets you leave everyday life behind to become one with nature. I feel fortunate living (Hanson) so closely to four gifted writers and just ordered a copy of "Tethered" Having just finished my MBA, I can now delve into some enjoyable reading and set the text books aside. I'm looking forward to "Life Without Summer". Happy writing to all of you. ~~Maddy