Summer is winding down, ending, already over. How? Is it stranger this year because of COVID, and the feeling like we might still be at the end of winter, early March, and that these last 6 months have all been some sort of a dream? It feels that way, like these last two warm seasons were just a tease, and that real life stopped in March, and that when we wake up we’ll be back there, still wearing puffy coats and sweaters, still waiting for the first signs of spring.
My summer was… okay. It was good, it was long, it was short, it was so hot and humid, I was restless, I was settled, I was anxious, I was joyful. The times when I felt settled were usually when I was driving on a long and empty road, or standing by an ocean. Nearly all the rest of the time it felt like I was waiting: waiting for the day to finish, waiting to move into the next week, the next month, waiting for this virus to be “solved” and to be in a place where I could move ahead with life.
This is not generally the way I want to live, and it certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my summer, but I keep repeating to myself: “We’re in a pandemic. This is still a crisis. It’s okay that the summer wasn’t all it could be. There was no way the summer could have been what you expected.”
And now we’re heading into a new season and the large questions of this time still remain. How long will we continue to be in this? Will I feel unsafe working from my school? Will I be able to manage all of the work that I’m facing this year? What happens when the weather turns cold, when I can’t see people outdoors? What happens in November, who will be elected president? How will that have an effect on the state of my country?
It often feels like a little too much and I can get trapped here, trapped with the questioning and the wishing that time could speed up, that I could arrive at a point where it is safe to get on a plane and travel to a new place and go on a long walk.
Instead, I’m here, home, on my couch and on my porch. Soon I’ll be back in a school and even though I had a long break from work, it almost feels as though there was no real break at all.
I think and think about what I can do to quiet the questions and the restlessness, and the answers are what they always are: Walk. Write. Repeat and repeat.
My writing has gone in slow waves this summer, from nonexistent to small things to occasionally a big burst of something. But then there are the ideas, too, the ideas of new things to write and new things to share and when I start working on an idea, it feels really good. It’s enough to even make me forget that there is a pandemic swirling around, and I can sink into the excitement of something new, even if it’s just the words I’m putting on a page.
I’ve been working on some essays, maybe you could call them pieces of long-form travel writing. Whatever they’re called, they’ve been fun to work on, and I have nearly a dozen ideas of what to write about. They are stories and lessons from the last 6 years (or, the last 20 years, if you go all the way back to my college year abroad). Initially I thought that I might try to put the essays into an e-book, and for the last year have been coming back to that idea (when I’m not trying to finish writing the Camino Book).
But a few weeks ago I had another thought, and this one feels good. Nearly two years ago I started a Patreon, and have occasionally posted short ramblings and photos, but I’ve always intended to do more. The support that I’m getting there has been phenomenal and has meant so much to me, especially because my patrons aren’t getting much directly from the site- no real bonuses or perks. They’re supporting the work I’ve already done, and whether the know it or not, are giving me a tremendous amount of encouragement to keep chipping away.
But then it occurred to me- Patreon would be the perfect place to publish these essays I’ve been working on/dreaming up! I always worried that posting regularly to Patreon would take away from what I would share on this blog, and would also take away from the precious time I have to work on my book. And those concerns are legitimate, but I think an essay a month is more than do-able. It will keep my writing muscles strong, it will motivate me to write out some of the stories I’ve been meaning to share, and it will give those stories a place.
To have access to the stories, readers will need to sign up to be a patron (it’s easy and I’ve included several levels from as little as $1 or $3 a month), and patrons can cancel at any time. To give you a little taste, I’m making September’s essay public for the rest of the month (which means you can read without signing up to be a patron). It’s a slightly altered excerpt from the book I’m working on about my first Camino, and this section includes my arrival in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and what it was like to face the beginning of a 500-mile long walk.
So go check that out, even if you don’t intend or can’t afford to be my patron- I’d love for you to read some of my work in progress!
It feels good to be writing, and to give myself accountability in this way. It’s nerve-wracking and a little scary, too (publishing/posting anything I write always is), but that’s not a bad thing. And in these months, I need something to focus on, something that moves me forward, something to anchor me while the rest of the world swirls and rages.
And, otherwise, I’m going to walk. There’s nothing big planned- how can there be?- and while I wish I could be chronicling a grand adventure, instead I need to focus on what’s around me. The same walks I always do, but also exploring the parks and trails a little further afield. Finding joy and adventure in these smaller journeys is something I’ve been trying to work on in these last 6 months, and I’m slowly getting better at it. I can’t wait to be back on a long-distance path somewhere out in the greater world, but in the meantime, I’ll continue to look for the beauty in my own backyard. Walking, any way you do it, however you do it, is good.
So that’s the update for the moment: new writing on Patreon, and stretching my legs wherever I can. Mourning, a bit, the end of summer, but keeping an open mind as to what this next season might bring.