I’ve started a new writing project, one based on a journey I took many years ago. It was a long journey: seven months, and a challenging one. I’d sold pretty much everything of value I owned—business, home, car—bought an around-the-world airline ticket and set off with little more than one suitcase and a handful of plans. I still have the journals I kept of my travels, as well as packets of letters I received at various locations, a few photographs. But I’ve decided not to reread the journals as I’m writing, but to just let the memories and the images appear in daily writing sessions.
“Memories are rooted in place: a lifetime of kitchens, backyards, porches, and patios. Our bedroom and our best friend’s bedroom, the street where we played until dark and our parents called us inside, the park where we picnicked, the swimming pool with its aquamarine water smelling of chlorine or the pond on the farm with its muddy banks. If you want to enter a memory, enter a room in your grandmother’s house. Remember an incident, and the place where it happened will figure prominently in the story. Everything happens somewhere, and if you want to bring the memory alive, be in the place where it occurred.
As usual before a workshop, I pick up a coffee to take with me. And so it was that on a recent Sunday morning I drove the roundabout way to The Ink Spot to stop at Starbucks for my regular Americano. As I waited at the light, a young man crossed the street in front of me. Slender, wearing jeans and a long-sleeved blue pullover, he carried what could have been a journal, could have been a book.