Posted by: chptr37 | 05/06/2009

Pg. 36: See to Sea


The trip to the “electric bakery” (I’m still not sure what that means, other than possibly “not wood-fired”) merited two pastries: the top is kind of a melt-in-your-mouth broken up biscuit (very good) layered with … sweet butter? (not so good). The second is pink mini-marshmallows on a graham-style crust covered with chocolate.



  • Weather: I’m growing moss instead of hair…
  • Mileage: An hour’s worth. Also, a very soaked set of pants worth.
  • Discovery: I don’t like Scottish pastries very much… Or at least, I’ve yet to find one that I really want to sink my teeth into.
  • Media: Blindness. It’s a decent movie, if you like near-future sci-fis. Reminds me of I Am Legend and Children of Men, although it’s nowhere near as good as the latter.
  • Worst Thing: The lethargy that comes from all the rain.
  • Best Thing: Writing. I’m writing.
  • Quote of the Day: “Someday, you’re going to come with me to this great spot in the Gorge high above the river in the sunshine, where nobody goes, and play naked Scrabble with me. You’ll die & go to heaven.” Sent in an email by one of my bestest friends. I’m waiting for that day. Especially because I know she only ever plays dirty-word Scrabble.
  • Word of the Day: Ice Lolly. Popsicle.


Having settled, finally, after so much moving on, this is now my daily routine: I rise and walk. Sometimes it’s nice out. More often than not, it pours on me. Sometimes I make it a couple of miles, and sometimes the rain chases me back to the flat before I can get ’round the block. Then, I make coffee and I write. If it goes well, I get a couple of good solid hours in. If it goes poorly, I pick up a book or six, I find something to eat, I type a few words, I go and open the tiny fridge again even though I’m not hungry and I already know what’s in it. After the writing, I take care of things. Which could be anything from laundry to the library to shopping to answering emails. I go home and I write some more. There’s dinner to be cooked, something juicy to read, and then sleep.

For me, the hardest parts of being on the go were losing the walking and the writing. I know that they go hand-in-hand, and yet sometimes I forget.

But while I was out traipsing by the seaside this morning, I remembered why there’s the connection: Walking eases my monkey mind. Monkey mind is a Zen-ish term that means the uncontrollable mind, the ‘won’t sit still’ mind, the wreaking havoc mind. For me, my Ape Brain is the one that happens most often when I sit down to write. It’s the mind that says, “You suck at this.” It says, “Why bother to write? It’s a waste of time.” It says, “Others do this so much better than you. Find another hobby.” It often says, “Why don’t you go have a slice of cake or two? This will be so much easier to write when you’ve had some sugar.”

Walking shuts my monkey mind up. Well, it doesn’t shut it up, actually. What actually happens is that for the first mile or so, the chatter is incessant, about everything that’s both good and bad with me, my writing, my life. All the fears and anxieties come out. I think, “Why am I thinking about this? I should be thinking about that story I’m working on!”

And then something funny happens. Somewhere between mile one and mile two, I look up with a start and I realize the monkey has swung off into a tree somewhere to fling poop at passserbys and I’ve been thinking about a story for the past half hour. And after that, I can keep the monkey at bay. At least until the next morning when he starts chattering all over again.

Today’s walk brought me for a mile or two along the seaside. The monkey quickly went off to look at the shiny sea shells while I watched the birds and the boats with my external eyes and unraveled a plot problem with my ‘internal eyes.’ I remember reading once that the etymology of the word ‘essay’ means to walk, or to go forth. I can’t remember where I read that now, so it may or may not be true, but I always think of it that way. Walk and discover. Write and discover. Read and discover. Come with me, let me show you this path, this shell, the way the water breaks along the shore here and here and here…

I walked along the ocean until my legs burned and I couldn’t remember exactly how to get home, my mind in other universes and far-away lands with people who have been invented yet. And then, I rounded a corner and got brought back to earth with a sudden and horrible shock: It started pouring on me, the winds blowing water down my neck and up my pant legs and through every bit of fabric that I wore. So, I scurried home, looking, I’m sure, like a wet monkey myself, wondering why I tortured myself with traipsing along in the wind and rain.

And then I got back to the flat and stripped off my soaked pants. I sat down behind my desk with a warm cup of coffee and my laptop and my view of the harbor and then I listened. I wrote for three hours, and there was not a monkey to be found.

Far and fast, s.



The cygnets (baby swans) testing the waters in the moat around the Rothesay Castle.


“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” ~Kurt Vonnegut



  1. I’ve not commented before, but I had to on this post…loved it, felt it, and completely understood it. Thank you for sharing your journey to/around bonny scotland, your inner workings & struggles & writings & all of it.

    Just a big thanks.

  2. Just got back from a walk and sat down (with cold seltzer and lemon & lime because it’s muggy out) and read this beautiful description of what happens.

    Ah yes, the monkey usually tries to get me to turn around (it’s too muggy, tickle in throat and no water, possible thunderstorm). But as a passed a certain point (and it did seem to be just as I passed a mile) I started thinking about a chapbook project that I was stuck on and a solution (or part of a solution) came to me.

    I sure hope that “essay” meaning is right, because I like it.

    Glad you’re writing.


  3. Katherine: Thanks so much for your note — I love knowing that I’m touching readers out there, especially those quiet ones who just follow along until something touches them. It’s my pleasure, all the writing, and I’m so glad it resonated with you 🙂

    Robin: I can’t believe it’s that muggy… Jeez. Want to trade, just for an hour or so? Congrats on the chapbook solution. Don’t you love it when that happens?

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