Cape Cod Running (Just Keep Running)

I’m going to run this weekend.

I decided that as I packed my duffle bag for a short Cape Cod trip, taking up precious space with yoga pants and sports bras. And on Saturday, as everyone left the house, I ignored my unopened books and blank notebook pages as I tied up my sneakers, layered my tank tops, and ran out the front door.

I huffed up one main road, and then another, with an actual goal in mind —a beach, just over a mile away. There and back, that’s all I planned on doing. Not incredibly far, but farther than I had been doing on the treadmill. I expected to stop before I even smelled the ocean, taking deep breaths as I walked slow, hoping to get the energy back to jog the last few feet before I reached the sand.

I kept going. Music pumped in my ears, but I could still hear my breath heaving in and out as slow and even as I could manage, hear my sneakers pounding steadily on the road, the dirt, the sidewalk. I turned up the last road, I got to the beach, and then I finally slowed — I’d run the whole way there.

Monday Morning Run



Everything smelled like seaweed and salt, and I walked up and down the sand, sucking in the smells, watching the ocean, letting the breeze cool a face that had pinkened to about the color of a watermelon Jolly Rancher.

Then I ran back.

Again, I thought I would stop, that I’d walk the last half mile, the last quarter mile, the last hundred yards. But I kept coming up with reasons. I’ll finish this song. Oh wait, “I Don’t Have a Favorite Pony” by Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers is on, I’ll finish that song. Now there’s a couple up ahead walking their elderly dogs, I’ll catch up to them first (why are they so hard to catch up to??).

I’d run out of excuses, and  by then I’d reached the house again. Just over two miles, not terribly far, but a distance for me. And I’d run the whole way, except for a pair of minutes where I stared, heart pounding, at the sea.

I ran one last time on Monday, before we left. Legs tired, and rain misting outside, I went to another beach, not so far away as the first. But I went, my own feet carried me all the way there. The whole rest of the rainy cold day, packing bags and driving home, it felt pretty good.20160502_104945

The Power of Routine; or, Why I Can’t Write on Vacation

Last week was our week long vacation down on Cape Cod, and as usual I had more plans for myself than I actually understood what to do with. I was going to do my new book research, read most of my critique partner’s novel, catch up on a bunch of books. Instead I went to the beach, walked the dog, and did an intense amount of napping.

Despite how strapped for time I sometimes feel with my normal schedule — near full time work, taking care of the house, making myself exercise — the regular happenings of my week actually help my writing projects, in that I know what time I have set aside to work on them. Generally mornings, before and maybe just after breakfast, and then until noon if I’m not going to my job until later that day. On vacation, despite all this open time, I manage to spend less on work, I think because I lack part of the urgency. I don’t get up as early, I don’t have a desk to sit at and get me in the right mindset. Also my husband, and often his family, is right there, waiting for me to spend time with them and state what I want to do that day.

photo credit: visualpanic via photopin cc
photo credit: visualpanic via photopin cc

So, on vacation, my regular routine won’t work. And that’s fine. There are plenty of times in my life where my routine has morphed to fit the lifestyle I’m living, like how I work in the morning now rather than night when the family slept like I did when I lived with my parents. The problem is, with a vacation, it’s a short term change that I have to get into right away and try to keep up, until I quickly ditch it again for the old one I’ve grown so accustomed to when I get home. I figured out how to make it work a little better by the end of the week, and while I still didn’t get as much done as I wished, I was able to complete something.

  • Figure out your new writing time. Is there an hour when everyone’s in the shower and you know you won’t be bothered? A period right after lunch when you would normally just rest? Can you go to bed a half hour later? It’s your vacation, but maybe waking yourself up before everyone else stumbles to the coffee is the only thing you can do. I did that a bit, forcing myself up at 7:00 with the dog, so I could do my research and make my notes.
  • Don’t give up that time. It’s a vacation, plans are fluid, you might feel you need to give up late night writing in favor of ice cream, or the morning for a big out-to-eat breakfast. Guard that time, though, or set aside something else specific. I’ve found that when writing time is a “when I get to it” kind of deal, it tends to not get done.
  • Separate yourself. Maybe you can write within a crowd. I can’t. Depending on what kind of project I’m working on, the more activity going on around me, the harder it is to focus on the story at hand. It doesn’t help that everyone suddenly shows interest in what you’re working on once you crack open a notebook in their presence. Hide in your bed, walk to the coffee shop. I’ve gotten work done while curling up in a chair opposite someone taking a nap — no one’s going to be too loud in that room.
  • Small goals, please. You’re probably not going to write as much as you would at home, despite your lofty intentions. Set little goals: I’ll write a page, I’ll annotate this chapter, I’ll edit 5 pages. Then you’re not stressing yourself out (you’re on vacation, man) and you’ll close the laptop with a little sense of accomplishment.
  • Relax. Writing on vacation is not the same thing as taking time off specifically to write. You won’t finish your great amazing novel now; this is just to keep your head in the game, keep your wordsmithing sharp. Worry about marathon sessions and intense edits when you get back to the dusty corner of your own house, not when you’re supposed to be choking on sea water and crisping your lily-white skin at the beach.

Do you try to keep up a writing routine when you go away, or do you treat it like any other job and leave it all behind? How do you keep up the quota on your vacation?


My Cape Cod Fox

A couple days ago my husband and I took our dog on a morning walk through a neighborhood on Cape Cod. Most of my attention was focused on keeping our sniffy dog from pausing in the road, so my husband’s hand signaling me to halt startled me. “Look,” he said. “Right there.”

I looked. Across the street stood a red fox, his fur a pale, shining burnt orange, right in someone’s yard, in the open. he knew we were there. And he stared straight back.

Not our guy — he seems to know right when you mean to record him — but a particularly similar stare.

I’ve been reading a few books (see, I can bring it back to books) specifically on crows and other corvids, but aside from those birds one thing the authors commonly bring up is the way wild life almost inevitably intersects with human life. On this short visit to the Cape I’ve seen it several times, with the rabbits calmly munching grass while a party goes on over a fence, the sea gulls weaving between beach chairs and umbrellas searching out potato chips, a trio of crows perching on a wire outside the window, their close calls cutting through TV noise. And a fox, standing in a yard, watching you.

I’m relatively certain I’ve seen him before on other trips to this spot, slinking between fences as we drove the car at night, somehow dog-like and cat-like all at once, and again from a yard down the street, watching me, assessing minutes before I noticed him there. (The dog, meanwhile–thankfully–oblivious, scratching through pine needles.)

Each time I see him I’m shocked — but why should I be? This was once a forest and parts of it still is. There are rabbits, squirrels, so many chattering songbirds, there’s plenty to attract him. But I”m always surprised to see he’s decided to stick around, and also that no one has decided to chase him away. Or worse.

When I see that fox, head low beside the trees, I’m awed. Just like I am whenever something wild appears in a time or place unexpected.

Do you ever see wild life in a place you think of as decidedly not wild? What do you think? What do you do?