More than Paper and Pen

I nearly missed it. Hardly larger than a child’s playhouse, tucked into a bend of Oklahoma highway, its red stone walls flickered in the rising light and complemented the hand-lettered sign. For rent? I thought as I drove past. Furnished?

Pulling onto the side of the road, I turned around and headed back to park in the dirt driveway that edged the property. A house to the east seemed vacant. An air conditioner humming in one of three slightly larger brick cabins to the west only added to the sense of desertion, if not desolation. Camera in hand, I walked around the car to get a better look at the cottage, and stopped.

Above the battered door, a carved stone lintel betokened human presence: friendship and welcome, affection, familial bonds.  Beautiful and unexpected, it brought tears to my eyes and unexpected longing to my heart. I wanted that cabin.

Granted, it might not be the best place to live, with a highway running only fifty feet from the front door. Certainly it lacked a few amenities – window glass and a floor, just for starters.  But the roof looked good and the thick, compacted vines running along the sides and back of the place would help keep the stones in place as the mortar crumbled away. Walking around the building, I pondered.

No, I thought, not a home. But maybe a fine place to write. Under the spell of those clasped hands I imagined table and chairs, a coffee pot.  In the silence I dreamed the burble of vine-wrens and the soughing of tires on pavement. Sniffing the air, I caught not merely the dust and dessication of early autumn drought but the fragrance of leather-bound books purchased at farm sales, and the scent of fresh-mown hay. In this perfect writing space, thoughts would heap up like the roiling clouds and words stream down like rain. A perfect writing place is hard to come by, yet here it was – in my imagination, possessing infinite appeal.

Later, driving down a real-world road but still entranced by my vision of perfection, I remembered Annie Dillard’s words on writing space.

“Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view… When I furnished this study seven years ago, I pushed the long desk against a blank wall, so I could not see from either window. Once, fifteen years ago, I wrote in a cinder-block cell over a parking lot. It overlooked  a tar-and-gravel roof. This pine shed under trees is not quite so good as the cinder-block study was, but it will do.”

Clearly the cinder-block cell served Dillard well, but not everyone requires – or delights in – such a spartan environment. Harper Lee moved to New York. Flannery O’Connor gravitated at first toward writers’ “colonies” but thrived even after disease forced her return to Andalusia, the family farm in Georgia. T.S. Eliot embedded himself into the literary life of England, while Wendell Berry returned to Kentucky – not only to write, but to work.

I suspect each of us functions better in one sort of environment than another, and the places we choose become part of our writing “tool kit”, as necessary for productive work as any dictionary or thesaurus.  Some favor cafés, some seek out libraries. Some prefer isolation, others are stimulated by the bustle of open, public spaces.

As for the act of writing itself, Claire Tomalin, biographer of Jane Austen, once said, “All you need if you are a writer is a desk, a pencil and, of course, a great brain”. 

I presume she’d allow for a little paper, too. But different approaches to the writing process are as natural as preference in matters of place. Some enjoy composing by hand. Others depend exclusively on computers. Some writers love the tactile experience of inked words flowing across leather-bound pages, while at least one poet in the world contents himself with the kind of cheap ruled tablet common to second-graders and a clutch of number 2 pencils.

Sometimes, a writer’s favorite tools are even more surprising. An interviewer once asked a musician, “What’s the one thing you need to write a good song?” “My guitar,” he said. “I write the words down eventually, but that’s never where I start. I start with the music, because that’s where I find the words.”

Clearly, each of us has needs that, once met, help to move us down the road to writing satisfaction. Sometimes declared needs are quirky and frivolous, like avocado sandwiches for lunch, or Debussy playing in the background.  Others are more substantial, and include the tools that allow us to keep our imaginations lively, our spirits enriched and our words flowing.

Despite my brief infatuation with an Oklahoma cottage, I’m entirely satisfied with my own writing space and the tools arrayed around me. Everything I need for actual writing is either at hand or easily accessible. I wouldn’t change a thing.

But much of what piques my interest demands research, and much of my research stirs deeper curiosity. To satisfy that curiosity requires more than books. It requires replacing search engines with a real engine – that is, it requires travel.

Unfortunately, I’ve been driving the automotive equivalent of that red stone cottage for more years than I care to remember.  A 1988 vehicle may be perfectly acceptable for in-town driving and hauling wood-working tools, but recently I’ve begun to feel as though the wheels might fall off – literally. Repairs have become more frequent and more expensive. Strange noises come and go, and inexplicable vibrations.

On my recent trip to the midwest, it was a road leading to a rural Kansas cemetery that forced me to confront the unfortunate, ironic truth. Free at last to indulge my appetite for travel, I had no dependable means of transportation. Humph, I said. I’ll have to think about that.

Home again and distracted by the return to work and routine, I gave it no more thought until a week ago.  Then, in an inexplicable frenzy of certitude, I acted. I knew what I wanted, and I knew where it was. I had the money, and the deal was better than good. Her name is Princess, and I presume she’s outside my door, basking in the sunlight. I think we’ll be very happy.

Like avocado sandwiches, Debussy sotto voce, cinder-block walls or a leather-bound journal, a new car might not seem a neccesary tool for writing. Some might call it a distraction, even an escape from the demands of paper and pen. But for a history-lover, a curiosity-seeker and a wanderer at heart, the roads of the world beckon as surely as the pages of an open book.  Now, I’m free to read them, and the stories they contain.

Was  J.J. Cale thinking of writers when he penned his paean to getting-up-and-going titled Any Way the Wind Blows? Probably not. Were he and Eric Clapton thinking of essayists, poets or novelists when they recorded the song for The Road to Escondido? I’m sure not.

Still, Any Way the Wind Blows resonated as I headed down the road last weekend to spend my “extra” hour of post-daylight-saving time enjoying my new ride. I’ve always found a good engine block to be the best answer in the world to writers’ block, and a new engine block’s even better.  I’m free now to run the roads with confidence, hearing the music and feeling the beat of life swelling up around me. If I happen upon Place and Time holding hands and hitch-hiking together across the country, so much the better. It’ll give me something to write about.

If time don’t tell you then don’t ask me
I’m ridin’ on a hurricane down to the sea,
If you can’t hear the music, turn it up loud
there’s movement in the air and movement in the crowd.
Some like this and some like that,
Some don’t know where it’s at.
If you don’t get loose, if you don’t groove,
Well, your motor won’t make it and your motor won’t move.
Easy come, easy go,
Any way the wind blows.

Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.

79 thoughts on “More than Paper and Pen

    1. pixilated2,

      My gosh! I have a style? Hearing you say that just tickles me.

      I’m glad you found me, too – I finally figured out who we read in common. The beauty is that we can inspire one another, with words and images. We’re the ones who weave the web!


    1. philosopher,

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the kindness of a comment. I had to smile when I looked at your “Beginnings” page and saw that wonderful photo of the road – so similar to the one I’ve posted here. Some images are naturally powerful.

      Thanks again for stopping by – you’re always welcome!


  1. I guess I would add to the list of requirements for a writer – curiosity. And the ability to follow where that leads.

    You obviously have the first in spades, and now, with your new wheels, you have a better handle on the second!

    You go, girl!

    1. Becca,

      I don’t know if I’ve become more curious, or if I’m just giving it freer rein. In any event, I already have a half-dozen trips I’d like to make, everything from weekend jaunts to longer explorations.

      Right now, it’s time to settle back into work and get a few things done before the snow flies!


  2. Congratulations on that new car — I like the thought of it transporting you to new nouns, begging for notice. And to be noted.

    But, of course, I liked that Oklahoma writing shack too. That lintel — I wonder about its story — how and when it came to be — and by whose hands?

    Everything has a story, doesn’t it? I enjoyed this one — and the sequels it will produce.

    1. Janell,

      I thought about you when I came across that shack. It’s down in the southern part of the state, not far from a small lake. I wouldn’t be surprised if it weren’t a tourist cabin at one time, along with the three brick cottages that were just slightly removed.

      The lintel is wonderful. It reminds me of so much American folk art I’ve seen. I didn’t realize at first that the clasped hands are on a separate stone that’s been embedded into the surrounding rock.
      Whatever the history, it’s been beautifully done.

      You know who else I thought of when I saw the cottage? Your sister. Do you think she’d enjoy the challenge of re-doing this one?


  3. All the newer cars look the same to me so I don’t know what the Princess is exactly but the newer rides do seem to be less worry than we were used to.

    Many “Road Songs” come to mind – “Bat Out of Hell” for me and maybe “If you want to be a Bird” from “Easy Rider” for you. My first ride was a hand me down ’51 IH pickup much like the one pictured on the Cale/Clapton cover. Same colour – maybe they (like the barns) had only one colour.
    “No tricks – Let’s GO”

    1. Ken,

      Herself is a Toyota Corolla LE. I’ve had three – two were murdered and I sold the third when it got to about 370K miles and I just was nervous. Been driving Mom’s old car since – when she stopped driving, it just sat around. Now, I’ll keep it for work. There’s no way tools, varnish and sanding dust are going into the Princess. ;-)

      I didn’t know “If You Want to be a Bird”. I listened, but I’m not sure that’s me. For the Wild Child part of me, there’s “Born to Be Wild” and “Goin’ Up the Country” – good road songs both. And of course these days I do plenty of driving to groups like Asleep at the Wheel. “Miles and Miles of Texas” is a good one. ;-)


      1. I’m back on the iPod : every now and then Herself needs time on the main rig. What was the middle question?
        Going to check out “Miles”

    1. symonsez,

      Gosh – nice to see you! Hope all is well.

      There are a flat lot of treasures out there to enjoy – no question. Learning to keep our eyes open can take a little practice, but it sure is worth it.

      The biggest treasure around here recently is the .77″ of rain we got over the past two days. Not a drought-buster, but if we could settle into a pattern of an inch a week, everyone would be smiling.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  4. Your “hook” to get us into this post is perfect, perfect. (I often marvel, in your writing, at where you choose to start, and, from there, where you go–your sense of how to do that seems unerring.)

    I would never have expected you’d end the post celebrating a new car, and yet, as I look back again, how right that was. Happy traveling, and I look forward to reading what you discover along the way.

    1. Susan,

      I certainly never would have expected to celebrate a new car in a blog post, myself. And yet, looking back, it’s clear to me that traveling and writing are my own version of Paulo Freire’s action/reflection model.

      When I returned from my ten-day trip to Iowa and surrounds, I discovered I had titles and a sense of direction for eleven blog
      posts. Assuming half of them will see the light of day, that’s still a pretty good rate of return on my travel investment.

      Beyond all that, with my family responsibilities over, my time is now. At 65, I still can pick up and go as time and finances allow. At 75, that may not be so. “Carpe diem”, and all that – or perhaps, “carpe car”!


  5. Oh, Linda, I love this! The places you can go without worrying “will we make it?” The carefree-ness you will enjoy! And as for a writing space, I swear, I write best in my head. “Write” it talking out loud, trying dialog on for size, going over and over it, to see how it feels. And you can do that in your lovely new chariot, too!

    But I do have to say, the Oklahoma cottage was pretty darned charming!

    1. jeanie,

      Isn’t the cottage wonderful? You probably could buy it for 5K, and then spend 100K “fixing it up”. Better it just stay there in memory, as inspiration.

      That writing-in-your-head business is something I do all the time, especially on the docks. It’s an art that easily transfers to driving. I’ve just done so little driving of late (well, except for that 3,500 miles north and back) that I’ve not done much of that.

      When I drive I do keep a notebook and pen at hand, for jotting down stray thoughts. The way my thoughts stray I have to nab ’em when they first wander by, or they could be gone forever!


  6. Linda, that’s just wonderful! What a beauty Princess is. I can whole-heartedly agree that an engine with horsepower is just as important, if not more, than a search engine. That will take you go places for some first-hand experience, do research and take photos.

    And I’m waiting too that you’ll come up this way… Alberta bound. Not in the snow though, but, not too early to make plans for next spring or summer. BTW, that cabin looks just like Snow White’s abode, the kind you’ll find when you drive up here near Lake Louise and Jasper. Actually Prince Wm and Kate came to visit and stayed in one of those… well, a bit bigger, but they had to install a new washroom just for them, so you can see how rustic it is.

    Another thing, I’m glad you’ve quoted Claire Tomalin’s bio of Jane Austen. Tomalin is as sharp as her subject, a most interesting read. In case you’re curious, here’s my review. Thanks for a wonderful post!

    1. Arti,

      When I called one of my friends last Saturday to tell her what I’d done, I mentioned that “Princess” was parked out front. I’d never thought for a minute what to call her, although I do tend to name cars. I guess maybe what T.S. Eliot told us about cats applies to cars – they have their own inscrutable name that has to be revealed to us. The “real name” can’t be imposed from outside.

      My first car, a forest-green VW beetle, was named Mephistopheles – it was a devil of a car. ;-)

      I’ve been reading too many bloggers and admiring too many photographers from your part of the world not to have that on my list of destinations. One of the best road trips I’ve taken was across Highway 2, through N Dakota, etc. I’d love to do that again. A little drift north around Montana would be a fine thing.

      I thought a lot about Jane, re: Dillard’s observations on “the perfect place”. What’s not to admire about someone who can write in the midst of the family? If you can observe when you want and “tune out” when you need to, any place is perfect! And thank for the link to your review. I knew you must have written something about Tomalin!


  7. Welcome to the fold, Princess! I have to admit that when I saw the lintel of that cottage I was afraid your next line was going to be “Reader, I bought it.” And you did, but not the cottage. You are a Ramblin’ Gal, Born to Run, and you know that A Road is [not] Just a Road.*
    Have fun, Linda! Can’t wait to read about your new adventures.

    *The Eagles (I think), Bruce Springsteen, Mary Chapin Carpenter–good road trippin’ music all.

    1. ds,

      Well, I wouldn’t have bought the cottage, for sure. I was going to say I might have bought the lintel and reinstalled it, but that’s no good, either. It needs to stay exactly where it is. Text and context, don’t you know!

      Fun’s the operative word, for sure. And road music? Oh, my gosh. The hurricane Rita evacuation was “Two Lane Highway”. My first trip to Louisiana was Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away”.And “White Freightliner Blues” always is good for west Texas!

      I can’t wait to start planning some adventures – but work comes first, for a while.


    1. Jo,

      I certainly thought so! Of course, Clapton and Cale have a lot of perfect songs out there – at least in my estimation. It’s pure pleasure to have one of them fit so well in these circumstances!


  8. So, when will those wheels be turning back in my direction, hm? And I’m still waiting on that email now that this post has met its squishy deadline!

    And please tell me how in the world you put all your thoughts in words that come together like a beautiful musical composition or breath-taking choreography? I have come to think that the way our thoughts form determines how we write. And you, my friend, are just light years ahead, above, and beyond most folks!

    1. Bayou Woman,

      Email first, trip second – but both just as fast as I can get there!

      As for how I put my thoughts together – well, there is an answer of sorts. I wrote about it once, nearly two years ago. I just re-read it and it still seems “right”. I believe I’ll rework and repost it for the new year, and I’ll let you know when I do. Better than trying to just say it all here!

      I will say this – I’ve learned to accept the fact that my head’s always going to be full of discrete bits of information, and I’m always going to be pulling them together in ways that can surprise even me. I think it’s pretty cool. I’ve had others tell me I’m just weird.

      Well, weird is as weird does, to paraphrase Granny! I’m just glad you and some others enjoy what I have to say. As long as I have a mind, I guess I’ll keep at it!


  9. Linda,
    You know I fell in love with that little cottage the first time I saw your photo of it and mentioned I would love to renovotate it!

    And Congratulations on your new “Princess”. You of all people deserve a vehicle that is reliable and you can feel safe to travel around. That means a lot.That is very smart to keep the old vehicle for work so you don’t mess up the Princess!

    Another Delightful Story.
    Thank you,

    1. Patti,

      Wouldn’t that cottage make a great artist’s studio for you? Maybe not enough light for a painter, but it’s got atmosphere to spare.

      On the other hand, I think I know some grandchildren who would just love to have it tucked in a back yard. It really is kid-sized. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would travel well to Florida. ;)

      I was informed today that Princess isn’t a good name for little Ms. Four-Wheels. Apparently it’s on a list of sexist no-nos at a certain corporation – you can’t call someone “princess” or you’ll get in trouble. I hope the person who told me that was joking – but he didn’t seem to be. Luckily, Princess and I don’t have to worry about such things!

      Thanks for stopping by – hope your weekend’s a good one!


  10. Love the music – good traveling music. We use my iPod in the car now when we travel as traveling up Hwy. 395 is not radio station friendly. That’s what a newer car will give you too!

    I’ve had a Toyota Camry since 2002. I sold my 2002 to my daughter in 2007. Unfortunately, last year, she was in an accident and it was totaled. We just purchased a newer car for hubby too. We got a Subaru Outback as we don’t want to take my Camry on some of the ‘off road’ trips we like to take. We’ve taken it camping a couple of times, but I’d like to keep it a ‘nice’ car. It’s amazing what you can put in the trunk, but camping is camping.

    The Subaru will be able to handle the rougher roads, and it’s comfortable. It’s important for us to have something that suits our multiple needs. Hubby used to have a pick-up truck. He LOVED that truck, but it was getting old, requiring more and more expensive fix ups, but most importantly, we couldn’t put the grandsons in it (no back seat). So every time he had to pick up the boys at school, he had to take my car.

    We’ll have these cars for a very, very long time. My 2007 has just over 31,000 miles on it. It will be 4 years old in January. That’s way less than average driving and this car has been our traveling car for the past (nearly) 4 years. When we go to Tahoe – that’s an easy 1,000 mile trip! So you can figure that about 4,000 of those miles are vacation miles!

    Anyway, I love the little building – what is it about a small building sitting in the middle of nowhere that captures our attention so? I bet you would love Bodie State Park. It’s an old gold town nestled in the hills north of Mammoth Lakes, south of Lake Tahoe. We’ve been a couple of times, but that is a trip we want to do again. You can see so many old building like the one you pictured. That, and an old cemetery – that is just fascinating to me!

    One last thing, you know I’m not a great writing, and I’m perfectly OK with that, but I need a window to look out of to spark my imagination. My old high school was a ‘modern’ (in it’s day) high school. No windows looking out, one window in the door looking into a covered hallway. I HATED that. The high school I had been to previously was an old one. Two stories tall, one whole wall of windows – beautiful!

    I think that’s why I love my school now so much. Every single classroom has one entire wall of windows- almost floor to ceiling. The other side of the classrooms have high windows (to open for air). The media center has one whole wall that is windows, so even though I am inside, I can see outside and I feel those windows let the outside in!

    1. Karen,

      What? Now I have to buy an iPod, too? Have I started down the slippery slope? ;-)

      I did check out the owner’s manual and sure enough – all sorts of gadgetry can be attached. I don’t think I can handle any more than cds at this point. I’m just happy that the cup holder’s in the right place, and I can put down the back seat if I need to haul something long.

      Little things are neat, aren’t they? Whether it’s a tiny cottage, miniature ponies, “Little People” toys – they just appeal. And there’s nothing like a barn off in the distance – I could look at photos of barns all day long.

      I remember you talking before about your love of light in the classroom – not to mention your irritation at all those days of June gloom! I’m the same way. It’s one reason I love this apartment so much – the view from my desk is all sky and water, and even though I know eventually I’ll have to give it up, I’m going to put it off as long as I can.

      Hope you get a non-gloomy weekend and a chance to walk on some of that non-collected sand!


      1. My iPod is ancient. I think they call it 1st generation. I got it a bit wet almost a year ago, but I resuscitated it. Put it in rice, opened up the back, and it’s back to working. Oddly enough, just today, I received an email from Apple that there might be a problem with the battery. They are going to give me an new one. I’m anxious to see what they are going to give me as when mine first got wet, I started looking them up online and they don’t even carry my iPod model anymore. That said, I believe it’s almost 10 years old. They probably aren’t expecting to hear back from many people about those iPods.

        I’m like that with cell phones too. I use Consumer Cellular and use almost their bottom plan. I get 100 minutes a month for $15. I just checked my usage yesterday and I’ve used 17 whole minutes this pay period! I think I have about 6 more days left. For someone who loves technology as I do – I do have my limits!

        1. Karen,

          Your cell phone story’s made me laugh. One of the great lessons I had to learn when combining boat work and cell phones is – PUT THE DANGED PHONE AWAY when you’re going to hose down a boat. Sigh.

          That one’s second only to “Do NOT send a spray of water directly into a 120 volt outlet”. Live and learn!

    1. Bella,

      You were right the first time. But as a pretty good writer name of Twain once said, “Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.”

      I believe he was write right, too!


  11. When I saw the clasped hands on the lintel, I immediately thought of the similar carvings I’ve seen on old tombstones. You can find references to them at sites like:

    The International Order of Odd Fellows also has used clasped hands as a symbol.

    My guess is that whoever embedded the clasping hands into the lintel lifted the stone from a graveyard or a dilapidated I.O.O.F. hall.

    Steve Schwartzman

    1. Steve,

      The links you provided are marvelous. My remark to ds, above, about “text and context” was more on-target than I realized. There’s obviously a language spoken by these older stones, and I haven’t spend enough time in cemeteries to appreciate it.

      The similarities between the lintel carving and the hands shown in the first link are remarkable. I’d not thought about the I.O.O.F. as a source – I tend to think first of their linked chain – but it’s clearly a possibilty.

      I just happen to have the phone number of the person renting the property. It may be time to make a call.

      Thanks for enriching the discussion. Thanks, too, for noting my mis-spelling of Debussy’s name. There’s nothing like a good editor to make a writer smile!


  12. What a pleasure to read your posts Linda. You did that 10 day trip in a 1988 car? Wow what a good advert for Toyotas!

    You said I’d be surprised by what you did with your extra hour on Sunday: I would never have guessed a ride in a new car. We bought a new car a few months ago and it’s always a pleasure to take it on the open road.

    I love that lintel and the cottage. I was hoping you would show us the inside of it. Did you photograph inside? I think Steve’s comment (just above) that the hands on the lintel were most probably lifted from a graveyard is most interesting. I’m going to follow the links he gave when I post this.

    I’m like Karen. I would never be able to write if my desk faced a blank wall. I’ve brought my computer down to the dining table so I can see through the window to the garden while I write…

    1. dearrosie,

      Oh, the 1988 beauty’s an Oldsmobile. I must say – on Houston freeways there’s something comforting about all that steel. I knew you’d get a kick out of use of “the hour”. I’m working today, but tomorrow there’s a trip down to Galveston in the offing. Fun.

      I didn’t photograph the inside – the door was padlocked, for one thing. I did glance in, and it looked as though no one but critters had been there for a while. But it was the outside that appealed, especially the lintel. I hope you did follow Steve’s links. They’re most interesting.

      I lived once in an apartment at the Texas Medical Center that had two windows, about 24″ wide and 6′ tall. They faced another building that wasn’t very many feet away. No sky, no trees, and almost no light. The only saving grace is that from one I could look into Michael DeBakey’s scrub room. Sometimes, it was better than television. But I’d still rather see the sky.


  13. Congratulations on adopting Princess! Classy ride! Enjoy driving every mile, and taking every photo you can! I wouldn’t mind turning my hand at trying an oil painting of it!

    I’m trying to get the bugs out of my site at — when you have time, would you please try to find it and let me know if you can get to it okay? I’m trying to follow you from that address.

    1. Texasjune,

      Looks like you’ve successfully debugged – good for you! It looks good. Now you can forget all those frustrations and get back to writing.

      Princess is classy. One of my Italian friends says she should be “Principessa”. That’s good, too. Maybe that will be her “pet” name.
      My neighbor’s grandchild was visiting her yesterday – we were talking about new cars, traveling and such and when Grandma asked the little one what we should name the car, she said, “Giddyupgo!”


      1. In our family is an “Isabella.” A lot of people try to pronounce it with an Italian accent!

        I was hinting about the cabin photo. I never paint from a photo image someone else owns, without specific permission. Just wanted you to know. :)

  14. What a delightful post and I enjoyed it all! I love that wee Oklahoma cabin and how beautiful the carved stone lintel. Beautiful dirt road photo… my kind of shots.

    The writing atmosphere for me has to be a place where windows are wide and open to see the outside and surrounded by books (books galore) and things/objects that please me. Even though I have a room of such for my creative endeavors, I wouldn’t mind a cabin (complete with a fireplace). Congrats with Princess and may you have many adventures in joy riding. :)

    1. Anna,

      That dirt road’s where I learned two important lessons about the GPS. (1) They will show the road you’re on, even the most hidden and obscure, and (2) They won’t tell you the bridge is out.

      The only “problem” with my space is that from where I sit, I can look directly into the living room, and with a slight turn of the head can look into the kitchen. The problem, of course, is that if I don’t keep the clutter and such under control, I can start thinking more about cleaning and less about what I’m supposed to be doing. So, I end up keeping things more tidy than I used to. I guess that’s no problem at all!

      Thanks for stopping by. Now, I just have to hit the road and go find that wonderful blue and red semi!


  15. Well, garbage.. I’d typed out a nice post and lost it.

    Congrats on the new wheels. There’ll be no stopping you now, girl. I think everyone has mentioned about all the road songs that I can think of, at the moment. About all my brain can come up with is that hippy-dippy saying, “Keep on truckin'” lol

    That cottage would make a cool little artist/writer’s studio. It did cross my mind that it looked like one of those little traveler’s bungalows that were everywhere back in the 20’s, 30’s and on up to the early 60’s. Remember Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in “It Happened One Night?”

    Those links about the clasped hands are interesting. I know I’ve seen them on headstones in old cemeteries. There has to be a story on where that stone came from. I find it a bit hard to believe that it was carved just for that cottage. But, I may be wrong. Who knows?

    1. Gué,

      I’ve been having trouble all weekend getting comments to “take”. I guess the stars aren’t aligned right or something.

      I ran down to Galveton this afternoon, grinning like a Chessie Cat the whole way. I do enjoy driving, and this new one’s pure pleasure.
      I laughed when I saw you mention R. Crumb’s Keep on Truckin’. Maybe I should put one of his bumper stickers on one side and one that says “Keep Austin Weird” on the other. Or not.

      We stayed in those “tourist courts” when I was a kid. I sure do remember “It Happened One Night”. I also remember trying and trying to get us into one of those places where every cabin looked like a teepee, but I never was persuasive enough.

      I don’t think that stone was “carved” just for that cottage. I can believe it might have been “lifted” just for that cottage – or even picked up at a sale or such. Architectural salvage, if you will. Maybe I will dig out the phone number for the person renting the place and explore a little further. It would be fun to know.


      1. Lest anyone think Linda or I saw ‘It Happened One Night’ at the theatre, we may both be a couple of Old Broads but not THAT old! lol

  16. The new princess is a beauty… and from what you’ve written here, sounds like a possible tax deduction as well. Seems at least as reasonable as a home office deduction. Maybe you want to give it a try next April? Tell ’em anno said so. I bet that would work.

    Me, I work best in a small office, no windows, no noise, no distractions at all, followed by a long walk and intense socialization … and the fact that my husband, for the last four years, has been working at the desk across from me goes a long way toward explaining my recent lack of productivity.

    Loved the picture you pointed me to, especially the way you had desaturated the tree limbs; felt dreamy & ethereal. I haven’t played much with picnik or picasa; around here, the main tools seem to be Photoshop Elements or The Gimp.

    Loved this post, too. Gorgeous writing and great insight, matched with gorgeous pictures and great music: a good match. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    1. anno,

      Trust me – there’s no tax deduction lurking around here, not for the car and surely not for a home office. Even though I’m sure our local IRS office would be happy to allow it once I said, “But Anno SAID so!” – we’ll just keep right on staying under the radar.

      I’m with you on the “no noise” preference – I’m not one who keeps music playing in the background. But that window’s me. Maybe I’m claustrophobic. But I do like the light. I’m not sure how I’d do with someone across from me. Dixie Rose is no problem. She just sleeps, and meows when she wants me to get up and feed her.

      I’m impressed that you’re a Gimp user. I gave it a look, but backed out quietly. With the programs I mentioned plus Absolute Color Picker, I do just fine. After a hard drive crash a few months ago, I didn’t even re-install Elements. Maybe I will, one day.

      I’m pleased as can be that you enjoyed this. It was great fun to think about and write, that’s for sure!


  17. I really ought to be in bed and asleep – tomorrow is the beginning of week three! I realised you had posted a photo of the new acquisition so had to come and look .. then, of course, I had to read all the posts, and replies. I arrived at one that began “Well, garbage..” and I knew, without even looking, who had written it!

    As to Karen, and her schools with high windows. It goes back to the Victorian times when the “educators” thought having a view onto the outside world would distract the children from their studies.

    One of the schools I worked in had a race track (horses) alongside the school grounds. Come race days, it was easier to stop all lessons and let the children watch the first race of the day, then they would happily settle down again, with just the odd glance out of the window when they heard the cheers from the grandstands. Can you imagine the difficulty teachers would have had on race days with high windows? Climbing on desks for a better view, perhaps?

    Inspired writing – as usual – I wonder if I can be inspired this week?

    1. Sandi,

      I hope you’re asleep by now! I’m glad you had a good break over the weekend – now, back to the old grind. Can you believe it’s week #3 already? I certainly can’t. That “extra” hour is a fading memory.

      I enjoyed your story about the race track, and the decision to let the children watch. I still remember the times in grade school when studies were suspended so we could listen to the world series games on the radio. I can’t remember now if we heard every game – surely not – but every year we listened at least once or twice.

      Isn’t it ironic? In Victorian times they felt it important to isolate students from the outside world. Today, that outside world is a little too much with us, and more structure, more focus on studies is needed. The pendulum always swings, it seems.

      Here’s to a productive week, inspired or not. As encouragement, I offer this from our good friend, Miss Flannery O’Connor: ““I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.” Ain’t it the truth?


  18. It feels to me like there’s all kinds of new in your life these days, Linda. I relish for you the meaning of this place in life now, when you really can pick up and take off, perhaps, even if for a few moments here-n-there. If you are the Queen, Princess is your daughter. A new mother-daughter relationship that will hopefully give you many years of joy!

    1. Ginnie,

      What a creative way to image all this! I like the continuity with what’s gone before. On the other hand, there’s another phrase I hear my more athletically inclined friends use that also has that feel of “rightness” about it – running buddies!

      In either case, it’s time to move on. I’ve even got a sound track I suspect you and Astrid will enjoy.


  19. Today, unknowingly, I stumbled upon your page. Ah, the cottage and thoughts expressed much as I would feel to have a place of quaintness to hide away and to allow the words to come to play. It is a wonderful idea and as wonder of luck of find to capture the essence of what you saw.

    Many smiles for making my day with your words shared,

    1. Mira,

      How kind you are, and how delighted I am that you enjoyed the post, and the little cottage. “Quaint” is a lovely word – and the thought of words playing around it even more lovely.

      Because you are smiling, I smile. Thank you so much for reading, and for the lovely comment. You’re welcome any time.


  20. I used to listen to Clapton all the time. Somehow, this song/album slipped under my radar. I love the lyrics and beat! Thanks so much for posting it with your wonderful essay. And, I agree with the others. You have quite a way with words. I love your blog!

    BTW, I have relatives in Escondido. It really does exist! :)

    1. Les,

      I remember what it was like to pull into Winslow, Arizona and suddenly realize the place in the Eagles’ song was real. And now, to discover you have a connection to Escondido – small world, and all that.

      If you’re a Clapton fan, you might enjoy reading my entry called Rock Star, Rock Planet. Did you know he has a planet named after him? I certainly didn’t. It’s a wonderful story.

      Thanks so much for stopping by – I’m glad you enjoyed it!


      1. Wonderful entry about Clapton! I had no idea about his planet (or any of the others) and enjoyed the story, reading as Layla was playing gently in the back of my mind. I also had fun perusing the list and came upon Lespaul. Clapton played a Gibson Les Paul before moving on to a Fender Stratocaster.

        And speaking of Clapton, have you ever watched the Concert for George (2002)? It’s a tribute to George Harrison on the first anniversary of his death. Clapton performed, along with many others, and it’s well worth a watch. My favorite song performed is My Sweet Lord (Billy Preston: lead vocal, keyboards / Paul McCartney: piano / Eric Clapton: guitar / Dhani Harrison: Backing vocals, guitar). Excellent performance!

        Off to peruse more of your archives. :)

        1. I hadn’t watched the concert, Les, and just spend some time listening to an assortment of cuts.

          My all-time favorite road song includes George, as part of the fantastic Traveling Wilbury’s. What could be better for rolling through the miles than “End of the Line”?

  21. i’ve never seen the shack where our daughter lives, but from a few whispered descriptive words i imagine it very much like your top image. actually made me feel sick; a much different reaction than yours. that’s life though. things affect each of us differently and at different times in our lives. as far as writing goes, my privacy comes with darkness and a sleeping household..paper and a bound book for the first draft or what may remain as just a jotting from the recesses of my mind. congrats on the car.

    1. maggie,

      Truth to tell, part of the reason that little cottage held so much appeal is that it reminds me of a cabin I lived in once.There’s much that’s similar – the color, the vines, the countryside. There are differences, too – my cabin had window glass and a good wood-burning stove, for one thing, which gave it a certain air of luxury.

      Still, my mom never felt anything but horror that I’d spend time there. The isolation bothered her, for one thing. She could conjure up an ax murderer on a dime. But mostly it was that she’d spent her life escaping much of what I embraced.Finally the property sold, and she was happy.

      The night is my time, too, and the sleeping world. I especially like autumn and early spring, when the windows can be open so that the silence seeps in.

      As for the car – I remember so clearly one or two of the photographs you took from your car. I hope mine helps me to do with words what you did with your camera.


  22. After much clicking and shoving of mice and cursors the gods of the blogosphere finally allowed me to get back to your site, and when my efforts were crowned with success, I tried to attach myself firmly to your service by requesting email updates. Only to find that the whole thing had vanished into thin air.

    I found you again, almost by accident, and read this post avidly and happily. By then it was too late in the evening for me to answer.
    In the meantime, I’ve tried to re-attach myself to your service and I think it’s worked.

    As for leaving a comment now, well it’s mostly been said, and what an interesting many-way-ed (?) conversation it’s been. I find I write mainly in my head, for hours and even days, and when it comes to putting things on paper they just fall out in a heap, without end, and probably without rhyme or reason. My writing room is ‘a room of my own’, small, book-lined, at the end of the house. I face the computer screen which has a wall behind it rather than the window.

    I have ‘no pram in the hall’ to stop me working, although both dog and Beloved creak up the stairs occasionally to see if I’m ready for a cup of tea or a little walk.

    I read your comment on Susan’s blog – now I understand about you and blogging. I still don’t see it as serious a form of writing as you do but then you produce this sort of post and I have to revise my opinion.

    Please don’t write such posts too often, I’d like to be able to keep up.

    1. Friko,

      Your problems getting here had to do with the WordPress/Blogger antipathy. I’ve been having a terrible time leaving comments on Blogger this past week. It happens from time to time.

      Not only that, Blogger won’t accept my URL, so many can’t click directly to my blog. I do think the email system is working now. I hope so.

      I do a good bit of writing in my head, too – especially out on the docks.They’re my version of “a room of my own”, and since I earn money there, too, I have both things the good Virginia advised for women writers in one place – money, and that “room”.

      I’ve been thinking a bit more about blogging. Blogs are as various as bloggers, of course, and one person’s intent can differ radically from another’s. I was given every sort of advice when I began this little endeavor: never more than 500 words, lots of quizzes, memes, awards, etc. I decided against all that, for no good reason except I had a sense that a blog platform could be used for something a little more substantial.

      It’s still a work in progress, for sure – and quite a bit of fun. It’s just tickled me to death you got yourself by to visit, despite the obstacles. I hope they’ll be fewer in the future!


  23. Can’t think of a better tool for someone who writes about life than a conveyance to help you live it.
    Better stories of the open road than tales of being stuck on the side of it…..

    1. Nanette,

      Besides, if there’s some kind of decent conveyance around, you always can give a lift to someone who’s stuck by the side of the road.

      You know – like giving a lift to someone’s spirits.


  24. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if JJ was thinkin of his own “Shore” when he wrote “Any Way The Wind Blows”.

    Forever a fan,


    1. Keith!

      Great to see you – hope all’s well in your part of the world.

      It won’t be all that long before I’m heading that way again myself, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll have to tend to business, though – Beell says he’s expecting a “stories per gallon” report now and then!

      It just tickles me to death that you stopped by. I’ll play a little Cale and Clapton in your honor on my first real roadie. ;-)


  25. There is something so very appealing to me about that cottage, too. You see it as a writer’s haven; I’m not a writer, but I see it as a haven of sorts. A reader’s place? I love how unpretentious it is; how very loved, although abandoned, it is. Perhaps that is what resonates with me; that last juxtaposition.

    Anyway…Princess looks like a wonderful car. Love that you name your cars, as my mother does hers. Her latest yellow VW convertible? “Buttercup”. My friend named my red Bug “Carmen”. Those names tickle me, and if I had such an abode as the one pictured at the top of your post, the very idea of perfection in my opinion, it, too, would need a name. I’m just not sure exactly which one.

    1. Bellezza,

      Wouldn’t Carmen and Buttercup look just fine parked outside the cottage? Like two butterflies resting, or an instant garden. I thought for a bit about a name for the place, but anything I came up with seemed forced. Perhaps T.S. Eliot was right – like cats, these cottages and cars have their own inscrutable names which reveal themselves to us in time.

      Loved and abandoned – that is the pairing, and isn’t that what so often calls to us? It’s the desire to take in hand what has been loved and left, and make it loved again.


  26. Congratulations on your new car! With your love of music, I’m thinking you are now cruising around with the Sirius radio going, am I right?

    My Nissan pickup just went past the 100,000 mile mark and continues to be a dependable companion. But, even though the reason is that they got such good deals on them, what is wrong with this picture: my ex drives a Lincoln and my teenage daughter drives a Cadillac?!!

    1. Claudia,

      No Sirius, but music for sure. I have such high standards for cars – convenient drink holders and a good sound system. Good gas milage and dependability are nice, of course. ;)

      Actually, I’d be pleased to have a teenager in a Cadillac, especially an older one. They’re still made of steel, yes? That’s one of the reasons I love my “work car”. It’s a heavy son-of-a-gun with less tendency to crumple if someone breathes on it. It’s really a good choice for Houston freeway driving – there are a whole lot of bad drivers out there.

      I rather like the thought of you in a pickup.It fits my mental image of you – straightforward, practical and able to do a little multi-tasking when necessary!


      1. Thanks! As a matter of fact I’ve just come back from taking the garbage to the trash/recycling center (recycling done earlier today).

        Yes, my daughter’s car is an older model and as safe as it is luxurious! It has never been to the trash/recycling center.

        Cup holders are important. If you don’t drink enough coffee, you won’t be alert enough to avoid getting extremely lost and you will burn more gas.

        1. Sometimes the coffee isn’t enough… Although, as I like to say, “I’m not lost. I’m just not where I expected to be. ”

          And doesn’t that apply in a whole lot of circumstances?

  27. Hi Linda. As someone has mentioned above (and as I already have in a comment on a previous post of yours), I’m fascinated by the turns you take from your starting point to your arrival at the conclusion. Congratulations on the new car! May you take many turns on the road to interesting places in it!

    I cannot leave without mentioning how much I like your photographs here, and especially that one of the open road with the cloud and beautiful light. Back to your idea of “a special place to write”, too. I’m pleased that in our new apartment, I have my special place to process photos in an office area between rooms in a passageway… and there are no windows.

    1. Andrew,

      I’m pleased as can be about the car. It drives beautifully – the only thing I need to do now is get out the manual and see what all the gizmos and gadgets are for. Cars generally have changed a good bit since 1988!

      I’m so happy you like the photos. I’m getting a little braver about “trying things”. One day I’ll get out my camera manual, too, and see what wonders I can discover there.

      It’s funny – if I were working with photos all the time, a space like you describe for processing sounds appealing. Is it something like the difference between black and white backgrounds for your blog? It seems like a “dark” area would be more satisfactory than one filled with light – but then, your photographs are vibrant enough in themselves to light up any space!


  28. What an undertaking getting a new car – and you did it! A writing tool – oh yes, surely. Wonderful that you chose it over a cottage. (well, not that you had to choose between the two after all…but…)
    Places like that cottage actually outshout the writing that one would do, or think one would do, in such a place. Love Dillard’s comments about writing space….ain’t it the truth? about finding the space, overall.

    Hope you and the Princess head back up in this direction again soon….maybe in the spring?

    1. oh,

      Funny that it just this minute occurred to me – “finding time to write” is simply another form of “finding space to write”. We tend to think about space in terms of physical location, but there’s a lot that has to be cleared out if we’re to “make space” in our days for writing, too.

      And yes, indeed – there’s a need to be careful about confusing the process and the product. Sitting in that little cottage with the birdies chirping and a lovely French roast at hand would be delightful,but it woudn’t make me an author any more than wearing a beret and sitting in a café spouting big words would make me a philosopher!

      I’m sure your Thanksgiving was wonderful – now we move into full holiday mode! Soon it will be the New Year, and then Easter, and full spring – and maybe a trip north will happen!


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