Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Change of Scene

My home is in beautiful Missoula, Montana, but my husband Greg (a food writer) and I decided to try something new.  We became snowbirds, leaving home in late October and planning on returning in early April.  At first we condo-hopped in Hawaii, but now are settled in Oceanside, CA, across the street from Del Mar beach.

Some writers need to work in their own familiar space or settle at a table in a familiar cafe near home to write.  But Greg and I feel fortunate that we can write anywhere, as long as we have a few reference books and our trusty MacBooks.  My nephew recently did some consulting for Microsoft and presented Greg with a sticker for his computer that declares "This is my office."  I want one too!

I find working in a new location has its own rewards.  The phone rarely rings, as no one knows this number.  Our cell phones stay mostly silent, since we don't use them that often.  That means fewer distractions.  We don't have the usual social engagements either, or other appointments, so we have more time to write.  The new location also means new experiences, like a variety of farmers' markets in surrounding communities with gorgeous greens and succulent citrus fruits, foods we can't get locally grown in Montana during the winter.  We both feel healthier, not only from the food but also the sunlight and relative warmth.

There's also the stimulation of the writing instinct in a new place. Greg is inspired to devote his blog ( to "unplugged" recipes, ones that don't require a food processor or mixer, since we don't have those things here.  I find myself obsessed with photographing birds and brilliant sunsets over the Pacific, with the damp sand creating magical reflections of the glowing colors.  Maybe I'll write a book about sunsets!  Or about gulls, or maybe I'll revive my out-of-print book on pelicans.

When I take my afternoon break walking along the damp, firm surface of this beach, I feel I could walk forever.  It's a form of meditation for me, allowing my mind to clear and to settle down.  Then I can focus on prioritizing the many tasks large and small that go along with being a writer, or just "be."  I can't do this at home in wintertime Montana, where it can be too icy or too cold to walk and where the sky during the short days is almost always an uninviting gray.  But as I enjoy looking out over the silvery sparkles of reflected sunlight on the waves, I look forward to Montana in the Spring, when fresh green sprouts push forth from the earth and the familiar birds, "snowbirds" like us, return to enjoy new life and creativity in that special place.


Alicia said...

I loved this article. My husband and I were dreaming of just such a scenario the other day. Our kids are still all at home but I have visions of spending several months of the year in a different location. Thanks for inspiring me to keep my dream in mind!

Vicki Cobb said...

Lovely post, Dorothy. Time to think and reflect is crucial. Too bad teachers and students don't have the I wrote a post about this:

Dorothy Patent said...

Thanks, Alicia, I hope you are able to realize your dream some day. If you keep it close to your heart, you will find a way.
And Vicki--even if people have busy lives, they can have 'mini breaks' by following Julia Cameron's advice and taking "artist dates" to places they wouldn't otherwise go, like a secondhand store, and just noodle around and let their minds drift. I used to get ideas when I was digging weeds from my garden!

Gretchen Woelfle said...

Hope to see you while you're here in southern California!