Maybe I take my own blogs too seriously. When Southern Exposure first saw the light of day, I wrote a blog entitled “River, Take Me Away,” using the title of a song my family learned at summer camp when our children were still living at home. Maybe that song or that blog was there, in my subconscious, when I stopped myself last spring in the middle of tossing away a brochure for a river cruise in Europe. I know something made me keep the brochure and show it to my husband that night. “Wouldn’t this be fun to do someday?” I said. “What a great way to see Europe.”
In an hour we were on the telephone and computer looking into this mysterious 2 for 1 sale, and the next day we were back on the telephone booking our stateroom. My husband had a sabbatical, and the Treasure of the Rhine cruise went to places we had, even though we’ve been to Europe a number of times, never set foot. It all fell into place so quickly. Credit card miles, hotel rewards that were good for the night before we flew home, raves from friends who told us we would love the experience.
We did love it. Now I’m home, recovering from jet lag, and reviewing my memories.
Are a novelist’s memories like everybody else’s? Some of them are. Gorgeous sunrises. The way a river comes to life each day. Castles on hilltops. Amsterdam canal boats with gardens on deck. French love songs accompanied by accordion. Europe floating by outside picture windows. The surprisingly fluid and soft sound of the German language. My not surprisingly unimpressive attempts to emulate it.
And what about our visit to the Antwerp train station? Remember my link to the YouTube video? A gorgeous, historic train station, and suddenly dozens of people dancing to “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music, then disappearing back into the crowd when the song ends? Now I’ve seen it in person, but sadly not with a chorus line.
Novelists do hold on to odd memories, though. Little snippets that will, without fail, pass others by, but will also, without fail, show up in our books. There was the man at another Belgian train station with a tattoo snaking up his leg that matched embroidery on his gold crested jacket. There was the passenger on board ship who loaded all the brownies in sight on her plate and the food riot that almost resulted. There was an ancient mansion seen from a train with multiple chimneys, each one terminating in what looked like a dollhouse–all different.
What I definitely took away with me? The chance to let down. To not think about my books or writing schedule. A chance to breathe deeply.
And sadly, two more pounds.
I was so glad to go and I’m so glad to be home, rested and ready to work. Tomorrow I begin the final edits on Fortunate Harbor. You know what? I’m really looking forward to it.