I’ve just returned from a trip to Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Savannah. Since I live in Panama it was a fairly big deal. I always have trepidations – completely founded – about going through the Atlanta airport. That’s enough to knock anyone off their game for a while, as it did me this time.Anyway, this was one of those “bustling” trips, where every minute was filled with important activities that somehow also managed to be mundane. Doctors’ appointments, escorting the kidlet from her North Carolina college into her Savannah real life, touching base with family, trying to get an appointment with a lawyer (unsuccessfully), baking bread for a party. I look back at two weeks full of these things and wonder where the rest of the time went. Small items like getting our U.S. phone turned on or making trips to the grocery store (more than were needed, admittedly – they’re so wonderful compared to what we have in Panama, though considerably more expensive). Anyway, these consumed minutes, not hours. So, where did the hours go?
On the plane, they went to my current work in progress, ESCAPE TO PANAMA. That was a good use of time. Ditto late at night, when I often write.
Our daughter has a lovely apartment with three picture windows and a porch. They all look onto a close-up view of Magnolia and Live Oak trees hung with Spanish moss, and a glimpse or two of the marsh. I spent hours on the porch with the computer open. I think I wrote some words. I know I looked at the view a lot.
Savannah is full of ghosts. I have many and spent some time with them.
We went to dinner one night with family and friends. My mouth was watering at the prospect of low-country seafood. Everyone else wanted south-of-the-border fare. We wound up at a Mexican restaurant and drank Margaritas, just.like in Panama. I had to laugh about the whole thing. Maybe the episode will find its way into my manuscript. Although the story takes place in various parts of Panama and the Washington, DC area, I may have to add a scene or two in Savannah, just for fun.
In the end, although Savannah remains my home, I was glad to return to Panama. Panama is where my hours are always accounted for – in words, lines, scenes, chapters, and eventually in tangible pages. I never fail to know how I spend my time here. Although my house looks out on a volcano in one direction and the Pacific Ocean on the other, with mountains circling the rest of the compass, I ration the views here. It’s a beautiful world – but nothing to compare to the world of the mind.
It’s taken me a few days to close the door and get back to my characters and their lives. Interestingly enough, none of these characters is involved in anything mundane. Perhaps that’s because, paraphrasing Elmore Leonard, “writers should try leaving out the parts that people won’t read.”
I’m sure no one would want to read about my sorting whites from darks or dealing with a broken disposal, although such mundane tasks might be good punishment for one of my unpleasant characters. As the tally of hours and minutes goes on, the mundane may make an appearance after all. It depends on how nasty the character becomes and what would make him want fix a broken disposal in the first place. Or maybe I’ll just kill him off. Punishment. Killing. Disposal. Now, there’s a possibility.