I wasn’t one of those children who wanted to be an astronaut, though not because of the height or zero-gravity or rocket ships (those things were all awesome!). I was just the child with her nose stuck in a book; going into space (and all the training required to do so) would have made an inexcusable dent in crucial reading time. As an adult, I don’t regret my disinterest in space travel as a career, but I do have a fascination with what being in space does to a person’s perspective on, well, everything. There have of course been movies of late that deal with some of this stuff and they can be worth a look and a think. But since I won’t be paying for my own space travel any time soon (unless…billion dollar book deal??), I have to rely on the next best thing, which is to say, regular old flight. Solidly within the troposphere.
One of the things that appeals to me about being away, whether it’s from home, country or planet, is how important perspective becomes. Just like when I’m revising a book and need to take a break to see the problems that have become invisible to my over-stimulated brain, being away helps me take stock of things. Important things. Like, Why am I writing this novel again? Am I who I want to be right now? How can I cram a month’s worth of dinners into the freezer in a two week period?
Recently I went away for a writing weekend, this time leaving all the kids and husband and laundry and things to be vacuumed and ferrying myself across the water to an empty, still, writing retreat in the city. I wrote more than a year ago about the last writing weekend and now, one kid richer, I need these getaways more than ever. And not just for writing (or catching up on sleep, sweet sleep). I need them to gain perspective, to have a few moments to be in a silent room with myself and remember to breathe–to pay attention to breathing–and remember who I am.
But the best, most poignant part of time away, for me, is coming home. This time I came home by air. There’s something paradoxically grounding about being in the air. Flying makes me feel even more tethered to the earth, to the planet and my life on it. It’s seeing the big picture, maybe. Stepping back and getting perspective on the work I’m trying to do. It’s what I imagine astronauts feel (my favourite one in particular) as they watch the planet move below them.
Oh right, this is what’s important. This is why I went away and wrote until my hands seized up and my brain bubbled over. This is why I’m coming home. This is why I’m alive. And paradoxically, all those this’s are different. And the same.