Thursday, July 24, 2008


I’ve been reading Tayari and Lauren’s accounts of their retreats with interest and pleasure. I love reading stories of isolation, productivity, and renewal. That is one of the pleasures, too, of reading Woolf’s letters and diaries as I have been: reading the accounts of her youthful jaunts to Cornwall to work for a week or two on The Voyage Out, of her middle aged weeks at her and Leonard’s country house in Rodmell.

We are just over halfway done with our time up on the St. Lawrence. I have only finished one book since my arrival: volume one of Woolf’s letters. On that score, and by most other measures, this has not been as immensely productive as I might have hoped it to be. Still, we have a lovely routine and I know that I feel less jangled than I would were I down in the Jersey City swamps for the whole summer.

Three mornings a week, I start the morning off with exercise: I had been running but now that the races (2—one 15K and one 10K!) are over, I have gone kayaking twice.

Our babysitter, recommended by the high school guidance counselor, is a gem: a farmer’s daughter and honor student, swimmer and equestrian, she has all the coltish confidence of one of Emerson’s boys sure of his supper. She arrives each morning at 8:30 and plays with the girls at my mother-in-law’s camp, four houses down this sleepy gravel road, until 1:00. There is a state park at the end of the road, accessible through a gap in the fence. Most early mornings, the girls all walk down there and go to the playground.

The children nap at 1:00, when one of us drives the sitter home. We work a bit more and then, at 3:30, I wake the children. We swim in the River until dinnertime and we all eat together: our little family, my mother-in-law, and her mom, great-grandma.

After dinner, the little one and I head home. She checks the little plants behind the garage for wild strawberries. If there is one, she feeds it to me; if two, she eats the second. My husband does dishes. The big girl walks down the road with grandma and the dog to check in on Great Aunt Mary and check the tomatoes and squash in the back garden. I read a few pages of Treasure Island to the big girl and she goes to bed. We pour one last glass of wine and read a few pages before bed.

I must say that the routine is pretty ideal. It certainly sounds like a person would return to New York weighing less, having written more…

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