Time Out

I just got back from a brief vacation in the Black Hills and had no intention of blogging about  it until Nancy Stordahl, who blogs at Nancy’s Point, asked me if I was going to and I thought, “Why not?”

Not so much to recount “what I did on my fall vacation” (although I have a stowaway cat adventure I’ll share with you in a minute) but perhaps to muse a bit on what I didn’t do and why.

I did not get on Twitter or Facebook or WordPress, and only partially because cell service was sketchy. I did not observe Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day on October 13th (which was also the day my dad would have turned 81 if he were still with us). It’s not because I no longer care; I feel like my finite time and shifting priorities require it.

I realize how self-indulgent that sounds, and how anyone with advanced cancer wishes they had the luxury of turning away. But I also recall what Lisa Bonchek Adams, a great writer who recently learned her breast cancer had metastacized, said in a recent blog post–“go out and find beauty in something small today . . . because you can.”

And that’s what I did. I hiked with Bruce and the people who own the cabin we stayed at.  We ate homemade crackers and cheese dip and drank some really great wine. We thought of Dad, and Pam, taken out by metastatic breast cancer in April. About this time a year ago we were with her in Napa, a blessing we’ll always remember.

I wrote two poems and an essay, which happens to be the amount of homework I had yet to complete for my next deadline in the MFA program I’m enrolled in. I tried just letting it happen instead of focusing on a quota, and it worked. I took a stack of books and my notebook and laptop and decided to putter. I took notes on most of the 10-hour drive about what I saw in case it turned into something and Bruce helped, pointing out things he saw as well. I’m learning to trust the process although I always fear it’s going to leave me again like it did 20-some years ago.

I think I was able to create something in large part because I wasn’t tweeting and blogging and posting and commenting. I tried to let my mind focus on nothing more than watching two beautiful horses in a pasture and going for walks and hanging out on the porch with Donner the German shepherd and Blitzen the cat.

Which brings me to my stowaway cat story. Blitzen is a very friendly and curious cat. He kept trying to get into the pickup with us when we were getting ready to go explore and we thought he had finally left. We traveled 15 miles to a lake and when we got out of the truck we heard meowing. I thought, “Oh, how awful, someone dumped a cat!” Then we noticed it was really loud near the truck and thought “uh-oh” but didn’t see Blitzen in the bed. We finally looked under the truck and there he was on top of the spare tire. He came down after about a half hour and we took him home (inside the cab!) He crawled from Bruce’s lap to mine and seemed to enjoy himself. We think he used up one of his nine lives that day but are very happy we got him safely home.


12 thoughts on “Time Out

  1. This sounds like heaven, Jackie. It’s delicious what can happen with open vistas of time and thought. I’m really excited about your writing efforts and everything you’re doing to encourage and craft your talent.


  2. Very nice, Jackie. I spent some time in the Hills when I was growing up & in college – my grandparents had a cabin not far from Lead. I love it out there.

    I’m glad you had some good time away from those of us living inside your computer. I was just writing to a friend (whose writing workshop I was part of last spring) about the difficulty of writing creatively while dealing with all our daily life distractions. It’s such a challenge to maintain a creative space around us with all the daily chatter. So glad you gave yourself some time & space.


    • Thank you Julie! Yes it is hard to find that quiet place. I love the way you put “living inside your computer!” And aren’t the Hills wonderful! We hadn’t been there for six years-way too long but it always feels like coming home.

  3. First of all, thanks for the mention! I was hoping there would be a post coming…The Black Hills is a wonderful destination. I’ve been there a number of times through the years and I love it. It is both hard, yet necessary to pull back once in a while. All who know you certainly know it’s never because you don’t care. You aren’t being self indulgent. You are living life and finding beauty. Thanks for writing about your “time out.” And the story about Blitzen’s adventure was like a story within a story. Glad he’s okay! Thanks for the post.

  4. If Blitzen held on all that way under your pickup, he’s definitely considered a survivor!

    Like you, I’ve stepped back to work on other things, not because I’m not interested, but because I’m not sure I can continue to write exclusively about breast cancer. Before cancer, I was a writer, photographer & filmmaker, so my creative streak needs nourishing in other areas. Working on your MFA will give you new and exciting insights. You never know where they’ll lead.


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