Susanne Dunlap

Time off

In Random thoughts on July 5, 2010 at 11:35 am

A short while ago, I wrote about the experience of time in fiction compared to time in real life. Now, as I sit on the porch of our good friends’ house in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard where time slows to a crawl, I’m thinking about the experience of time in real life, and how it can be so different depending on circumstances.

Even without a job structuring each day in my normal existence, sitting here, away from home, time bends. Priorities change. Reading the newspaper becomes an activity. Little alterations in the breeze or the temperature are events, and provide the only rhythm to the day aside from meals. The question of “doing” does not arise, only “being”.

And that question, for me, is this: Is “being” on vacation any different from “being” in daily life? There is a Jamesian quality to the pace and structure of each day here. The sound of the neighbor laconically making minute repairs to his Victorian gingerbread house. The birds carrying on their own timeless conversations. Cars crawling past at irregular, widely spaced intervals. People walking to the beach to swim and paddle, carrying toys and towels, floats and coolers. The distant hum of a small plane, or a jet ski on the water.

Something here makes me hyper-aware, which in an odd way disrupts my work. In Brooklyn, I tune out distractions. Sirens screaming past my window don’t impinge on my consciousness, nor do the loud voices cursing as they miss the bus or carry on a cell-phone argument, and I immerse myself in the world I am creating on the page.

But is that always the best way to work? Something tells me I will leave here feeling full and calm, as if replacing myself in a quieter world adds a quality to writing that I am too capable of forgetting to include. It’s a delicate balance between presence and absence.

For me, this all has the effect of slowing down the pace of the work I still do, even on vacation. Each word that I type, each sentence, takes longer to form, as if my heartbeat has slowed and my breathing quieted. I sense the spaces between each thought, I pause to let it expand and fill the overarching quietness of this different world.

Perhaps it is no accident that I sleep more in this state. It’s not just the heat, especially not here where no matter how intense the sun, a breeze strokes my arms and legs and makes the petunias in the hanging pots tremble.

And I pick up stray bits of conversation, storing them away in my consciousness. Time cradles me. I become more than I was. With hope, that means I can channel that enhanced sense of being into my writing.

Advertisements
  1. Lovely! You set my mind to thinking about how being on vacation opens my mind to stimuli that, during “normal” times, must be filtered. Or, at any rate, should be. ¶ Of course, now that you’ve mentioned Oak Bluffs — one of my favorite places — my non-vacationing head will be filled with MV sailing memories. I’m so easily distracted!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: