This was my office chair one day last week:
View of my outdoor office chair overlooking the Galiuro Mountains. I didn't raise the umbrella, for fear of taking off like Mary Poppins and setting sail over the mountains. Click to enlarge.
After packing the necessities for an afternoon in my temporary outdoor office, I navigated Betty (my Jeep) up some bumpy, but safe, remote desert roads. With laptop, highlighters, pens and index cards, I was prepared to knock out some fierce edits on my novel. This will be perfect, I thought. I love the desert. I love writing fiction. I surely have a winning combo on my hands. With such beautiful surroundings, I will crank out the most inspirational words and rock my edits like never before.
First, I had to get there (poking along like a tortoise as I gawked at the beautiful poppy, lupine, and globe mallow-covered terrain). Then I had to set up: select a pull-over spot with just the right view, park, properly position my office chair, and – of course – enjoy my healthy lunch.
I highly recommend a Jeep as THE ultimate way to toss a salad. My sexy red and yellow peppers, carrots, tomatoes and cukes, which all started at the top of the bowl, landed in the bottom of my low-sodium turkey/low-sodium cheese, romaine and spinach salad. Click to enlarge.
After lunch, I felt the need to simply be still. So, I sat with my eyes closed, face lifted toward the sun, the breeze whispering in my ears and tussling my hair. I watched two hawks dip and dive into the valley below me, then ride an invisible wave high into the azure skies. And I swear, moments before, I saw a golden eagle. My pictures did none of these acrobatic birds any justice, sadly.
Sombrero Butte peeks between a nearby barbed-wire fence, taunting me, “Come out and play, Melissa.” Click to enlarge.
Camera in hand, I thought, “Hey – I’ll do a self portrait of Betty and me.”
After multiple tries, I did manage to get my mug and Betty’s hood in this shot. Click to enlarge.
Then I thought, my blog readers will get a kick out of this. So I photographed the hilarious cattle guard sign.
As IF anyone would be crazy enough to ride a bicycle up this steep, rock-covered, unpaved, remote desert road into the mountains? Though I could share a funny story about what my uncle did to his front bicycle tire on a cattle guard. Click to enlarge.
I realized that many of you city slickers may not even know what a cattle guard is. So I took a close up, allowing you to see it in all of its glory.
Cattle guards are designed to stop cattle from crossing, and they eliminate the need for gates. The space between the irons is actually about the length of my size 7 shoe. So if Bessie DID get a hoof caught in there, she’d be in trouble. And supposedly, cows don’t like the instability of a cattle guard and avoid them at all costs. Click to enlarge.
Okay … So I was obviously a bit distracted in my outdoor office. That’s when I came up with Plan B: I figured if I were inside my Jeep, I could hunker down and get serious about my writing, free from distraction. I hopped in, pulled out my draft, and began to work over the steering wheel. Good thing the horn doesn’t work.
My intent was to finesse the opening lines of my draft, which are no longer the opening lines. Those edits didn't really happen until later ... much later.
About one page into my edits, I heard a rumble and looked up to see a C130 military transport plane flying overhead. Wow. How much bigger they look when you’re on top of a mountain, yourself! I was disciplined, though, and resisted the urge to take a photo … until another rumble followed right on the C13o’s tail.
I stumbled down and out of the jacked-up Jeep (it is tall and requires a hand grip and Nerf bars for me to get in and out). I had, in my viewfinder, the perfect shot of the second aircraft zipping by a half moon. I thought the lens cap was off and the camera was on. Well – that’s not how it went down. So I got this, instead:
This is a military fighter jet, an A10 Thunderbolt (thanks, hubby, for aircraft identification 101), also nicknamed “warthog” – a fact I like very much, given our desert pig friends, the javelinas. Click to enlarge.
So I hopped back into the solace of Betty’s interior and decided I would make use of the inside office I’d created in my outdoor-traveling-Jeep.
Laptop within reach and fully charged for the planned day of fast and furious writing. That shimmery plastic that resembles water in the background is not a mirage in the desert. It’s Betty’s zip-down window. Click to enlarge.
I looked at the time and realized the sun would soon be setting. Yes, I’d pissed the day away. And I really should have known this would happen. I know that if I’m not in a sterile environment and in complete silence, I can’t write. I can’t read. I can’t edit. Well, I can’t do much of anything except flop my head in every direction, looking, looking, thinking …
So I grabbed the laptop and decided I would at least do something. And that something is what you are reading now. I started this blog post.
I confess: Jeeps are not all that spacious when it comes to writing with a laptop and maneuvering giant binders. When I thrust my left hip and knee out the door, it worked a bit better. Self-made leg desk! Click to enlarge.
Eventually, I packed things in and started back down the mountain toward home, with nary a WIP word written. It will be of no surprise that – before arriving to the same old desk chair in my writing studio where I seem to best focus – the dazzling wildflowers demanded I pull over four times to take some shots of the setting sun as it danced on their petals.
These happy Mexican poppies and purple lupine made the trip worth it – even if the words didn’t go down on paper and the edits ended at page one. Click to enlarge.
I will try this experiment again, though. I want this “outdoor writing laboratory” to work. I want to be able to create in a place that moves me so – a place that plays a critical role in my WIP and my life. I think I can do it. Maybe if I don’t take my camera next time?
For Writers, Readers: Where is your favorite writing or reading spot? Are you afraid to change it for fear of bad juju? Should we try new spots or stick to tried and true? Would you have been as distracted as me? Should I try it again?
P.S. For those less outdoorsy types: I promise – next week’s post will bring with it a bit of fashion and time travel!