Walkabouts

Holiday greetings from the sunny side of the street.

I hope your holiday travels, if you had travels, treated you well. I’m just back in Washington from a couple of days on the road to visit family in central Virginia.

Say hello to Hamish, who hails from the Scottish hamlet of Port Appin and whom I look forward to seeing on my occasional visits to Charlottesville, where he now resides.

It was good to have a change of scene. But it’s good to be back home. I’m a month away from my book deadline, filling in holes and adding transitions and smoothing rough spots and generally making peace with what I won’t have time or space or knowledge enough to explore.

Whatever the outcome, I’m happily engaged in this last round of work. Yesterday, holed up at a favorite coffee joint in downtown Charlottesville, I hit that writerly sweet spot of relishing the process rather than obsessing about the finished project. The doing is all.

Forward motion, in other words. When I get stuck in revising, or when I get sad because it gets dark too soon these days and because the world’s a mess and I can’t fix it, I go for a walk.

I’d been feeling especially sad, or SAD, the last couple of weeks. And so I walked: from home to the coffee shop, or the library, or the Library (of Congress, where I have a study shelf). I walked, and it helped.

I walked in the middle hours of the day, striking out in search of the sun. I thought about Louis Armstrong and stuck to the sunny side of the street. I savored the slanting light of autumn and the incandescent reds of the maple trees, which have blazed forth seemingly all of a sudden here on Capitol Hill. I thought about the British travel writer Bruce Chatwin, who made a not always uncontroversial career out of walking. (I wrote my master’s thesis about him but that’s another story.)

So, whether or not you have a book to finish, whether you hate the dark days or love them, here’s my advice: Take a walk if you can. You won’t regret it.


Recent linkage worth your time:

1) A dispatch from Kansas City with yet more evidence that the nationwide indie bookstore revival (huzzah!) keeps gathering momentum.

2) Speaking of indies: This holiday season, consider buying direct from your favorite indie or university presses.

3) Five wedding rings: The always-excellent Margaret Renkl, one of my favorite writers on the natural world, on drawing strength from the women in her family.

4) Yet another reminder that good science journalism matters—and that you shouldn’t believe every alarmist claim you read: Yes, the recent bushfires in Australia have been hard on many animals, including koalas. Contrary to a claim widely circulated on Twitter, though, koalas are not functionally extinct.

5) Headline writers having too much fun. (Yes, I laughed. Also, props to Thor, an absolute unit if ever I saw one.)

Thanks for reading! If you’re enjoying this newsletter, share it with a friend (or, if you’re feeling flush, buy me a coffee, because I will never meet this book deadline without a regular stream of caffeine!).

Cheers,

Jen