Traveling Away from Distraction and Fast Clocks

I am writing from a new location today. I still have book shelves as companions, but their contents are interestingly different. (An impressive collection of graphic novels and lots of medieval history of science for instance.)  The computer runs a different browser (Firefox, not Chrome) and the Pandora station is playing bluegrass, which I have to admit, doesn’t get much airtime on my usual machine. The monitor and keyboard’s geometries are novel.  When I look up from my writing position, just below street level on a row of beautiful Brooklyn brownstones, I see plants and people (at home I look up at a wall, and left out of a window); cats, not mine–the same ones that woke me a few times last night when they jumped on to my bed–wail away, not too loudly mind, in the background.

That last bit should have solved any mystery pertaining to my transplantation: I’m house-sitting, doing  friends a favour, and scoring myself a staycation, for this residency includes access to what must surely be one of Brooklyn’s most sumptuous backyard gardens. My assignments for the week are simple: keep the three cats well fed and at peace with each other; water the garden systematically and thoroughly; don’t break anything.

Writing this blog post from here allows me to combine two threads of earlier conversations: sites of distraction and the slowing of clocks by travel. The latter first. Here, in my new abode, I’ve slowly discovered its particular accommodations, its boundaries and contours, come to grips with its creaks and groans. (And all that was just to figure out where the cats were and to make coffee this morning; getting Netflix to work last night, on the other hand, was a cinch.) I’ve been to this house many times before; indeed, I’ve been visiting this address since 1995, but with my usual hosts away, it feels new all over again. This novelty, this nascent unfamiliarity, has ensured that my day today feels more languid, more open-ended. It is this open-endedness too, that promises relief from distraction, which very often is manifest in a series of bad habits developed with regards to a particular space. Perhaps I will find distraction and procrastination here as well, but for the time being, marvelling at the two windows on either side of my desk, the dappled sunlight dramatically playing with its detritus, it still holds promise as a location unsullied by lassitude and dissolution.

I intend to seek out new sites for writing all week; sometimes in the backyard garden; sometimes on the table in the kitchen upstairs. In conducting such searches I join the legions of those who up and move their headquarters, laptops and chargers included, to coffee shops, to libraries, to summer retreats by lakes and shores. My strategy falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum of possibilities; a simple change of residence but elaborate enough to count as a ‘retreat.’ That word affords the most appropriate description, one capable of doing double duty as ‘manoeuvre’ and ‘location.’ The clocks will speed up soon enough; I will go back to being scatterbrained. But for now, there is possibility and promise. (The Pandora station has moved on to Amy Winehouse and Black Sabbath.)

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