On Saturday, I drove 360 miles from my house in California to Ashland, Oregon, and then on Sunday, I drove 360 miles back. It wasn’t a life-threatening situation or a quick trip home – it was purely for pleasure. Ashland is the home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and it’s one of my favorite places to visit. Not just for Shakespeare (and the host of other plays), but for the sweet small town, the literate population, the cozy pubs, the meandering paths through Lithia Park. And then to see a world-class production of Hamlet to boot? Bliss.
Alisha, my fellow English teacher and partner-in-crime was up for the ride – miles of tedious I-5, then breathtaking Shasta and towering redwood forests at the border. There wasn’t a chance of being bored or sleepy – we talked for five-and-a-half hours each way, pausing only for caffeine and potty breaks.
That evening we saw a modern production of Hamlet, and even if there was a brief period during Act IV where my eyelids slid closed, it was fantastic. Hamlet himself looked like a cross between Conan O’Brien and Beavis; Rosencrantz and Gildenstern were two lovely women – it was tragic indeed when they were pronounced dead; four “Playas” came onstage to rap the play-within-a-play; Ophelia went delightfully mad.
Maybe it was kind of a crazy idea, especially with daylight savings cutting our trip a valuable hour shorter, but for about thirty-six hours I didn’t think at all about my novel. I browsed a bookstore, enjoyed a masterpiece of world literature, and talked about books and the teaching of books – and I got out of my own head. I was able to forget, completely, the problems of how to work in a certain scene, of which “darlings” still needed to be killed, of how in the heck I was going to wrap this thing up in time.
Today, only slightly sleepy, I was back on task. I plowed through about twelve pages which tomorrow will need an editing eye. I was able to climb right back inside Kirsten’s head, following my writer’s instinct.
720 miles in two days? As it turned out, not a bad idea at all. I guess I’m thinking of it now as a sort of recharging, a realignment of purpose. My own world had been feeling claustrophobic – it was nice to breathe someone else’s air, even if it was only for a few hours.