My sister and I were teens the summer our family went to Yellowstone, and our mom spent much of her time in the cabin instead of touring the sites with us and our dad. We all wanted her to come along, but now I understand why she may have wanted to stay behind. Beyond the fact that she didn’t really enjoy being away from home, she also loved, craved, needed quiet time, time to write and think. Staying behind at the lodgings while we went out was her one chance for a bit of solitude during our road trips, even if it meant missing a geyser or a bison herd.
Such were my own plans this June when I found a remote cabin for us to rent in the Black Hills. I would bring the laptop and try to get back into the groove of writing while my husband and son rode the 1880 Train, went to Jewel Cave, and visited the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. They could have fun while I had solitude – and perhaps most important, solitude in a peaceful place that was not my own home, because at home it’s all too easy to be distracted by all of the other tasks and projects piling up around me.
I have several hours a week to myself when my son goes to preschool, but my most productive period of writing was when my son was an infant and I hired a babysitter at home for four hours a week. I locked myself in an upstairs bedroom and wrote. I wouldn’t leave that bedroom because I didn’t want to risk setting off another round of separation anxiety. But now when he is gone, I have the entire house to myself, and so I can roam and gaze at my clutter, the art projects, boxes of supplies for the Montessori course I took recently – and sitting down to write is easily put off.
Nothing I could write or photograph or paint or make with my hands even comes close to the amazing, creative journey of parenthood. But beyond parenting itself, motherhood has opened me up to a stronger sense of creativity than I have ever felt. And with all of these new ideas to pursue, new plans to implement, I am often unable to complete the course due to lack of energy and time.
So I quite happily settled myself at the old wooden table in the historic cabin with a wide view out over a green field, racing to put as many words onto the screen as I could while the guys were out. There was nothing I could distract myself with, other than attempting to light a fire with newspapers from the 1990s and making countless cups of tea. They were gone much longer than I expected, and while I relished my hours of quiet, I was very happy for their hugs when they returned.