White-knuckled it down to St. Petersburg at the beginning of January. Sounds like I was on my way to some Kremlin dungeon. But no, this was St. Petersburg, Florida. Americans do this drive all the time, and some of them older than 72, so we thought, Why not us? We have American passports and have lived here for 30 years, but the fact remains that coming from South Africa, we know about staring down lions and swinging on elephants’ trunks, but cross-country driving thousands of miles is not in our DNA. To be fair I was the white-knuckling wimp. Paul took on the driving like a champ, though he might have had a hint of lockjaw at times, when the highway was jam-packed with intrepid older Americans care freely hauling RV’s and bikes and boats behind them, overtaking, as if the miles of paraphernalia behind them were toys, and the huge trucks doing the same. “Don’t overtake, I saw that truck’s wheel touch our lane,” I’d scream. Paul offered to do all the driving, but being Ms Mother Jones independent I had to take my turn and do at least a couple of two-hour stretches. You can be sure I stayed in the slow lane, so the semi’s had to overtake me, I’m proud to say that I never overtook one!
But now we’re here and I say, It was worth it! And I say it with gusto, because we will return on the car train, and only have a nine-hour drive from Lorton to Massachusetts.
Our time here is nearly up, but I’m so pleased we did it. Our place is tiny and sweet, perfect for elves, us being tall and not elfish, we can’t be together without bumping into each other. “Have you noticed how often we say sorry?” said Paul this morning as we butted butts and knocked elbows. BUT we came here to work, me to write him to paint we couldn’t have done better. I have a tiny desk next to the bed (queen size), while in the other room Paul puts drop cloths over the sofa and table and gets to it. He’s been struggling for months, but here has come up with an exciting new body of work. I wanted to finish the fifth draft of the memoir that I’m working on before we came and be working on the next. I didn’t, but I finished it here and began the next draft.
Good, bad, terrible, useless, all the voices that usually appear, they came by to show their respects, but instead of taking up all the space they merely looked in and didn’t leave a calling card. Oh the bliss of giving my full attention to the work, and only it, hour after hour. The frustration when the words I’ve written do not work, but not being waylaid, knowing that I’ll go on trying until the knowing voice says, Okay, go on. For now this is fine. And I do. And I do. One night waking at 3am with the thought that 72 is too old, no one will be interested in what I have to say. And on its heels the knowing voice again that says: this is what I want to do, its what informs me, sustains me and gives meaning to my life. Sure, it would be great for others to want to read it, but even if they don’t I’m not giving it up for anything.