Time Off

by wjw on August 18, 2023

I’ve spent the last four days at a cabin in the Sacramento Mountains, a property shouldered up against the Mescalero Apache reservation (who, contrary to standard practice, managed to get some very good land out of the American government). The cabin is about 100 years old, and is owned by the extended family of Louy, our lovely host. Her great-grandfather used to drive a buckboard to the cabin with his family and a whole summer’s worth of supplies, then leave his family to their summer while he returned to work. Those were the days, eh?

Internet was spotty, but I didn’t miss it. (I nevertheless apologize if I failed to answer any of your email.) The best part of the trip was that there was absolutely nothing to do other than read, occasionally prepare and consume a meal, play board games, and write (when I felt like it). The rest of the time I sat on the front porch, inhaled mountain air scented with ponderosa, and watched nature.

The squirrels were entertaining when they weren’t noisily scampering on the roof, and every so often mule deer would walk by. I counted one group of eight, most of which were bucks of the same generation, with two prongs to each horn. A lone ten-pointer loped by one morning.

Every day we had a wonderful downpour, a glorious relief from our blazing hot drought.

It was possible to relax. This year I’ve been a perfect storm of activity, with each day featuring a list of projects that absolutely had to be done right away, for all that the vast majority were useless and trivial and fated to be forgotten as soon as I’d performed them. I would really love to hand all that over to an assistant, but I don’t think I can afford one. Or he’d quit after the first hour, when he realized how stupid and boring it all is.

So I really needed four days in the mountains, and I got them. And I was rewarded with an insight into my current project, Heaven in Flames. A year and a half into the book, I finally figured out the ending.

I had always known what I wanted to happen at the end— I always know the ending— but what I hadn’t worked out was how it was going to happen, at least without adding another 2-300 pages to the book. And now I know, and my daily word count has about doubled.

Thank you, squirrels. Thank you, mule deer. Thank you, ponderosa pines.

And thank you Louy, for making it all possible.

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