I never get tired of watching plants grow.
On our deck I have three pots of strawberries, two tomato seedlings, and one Christmas tree. Indoors I am raising three cilantro and three chili pepper colonies purchased as a kit from IKEA. Every morning I get up, and, second to the consumption of coffee, the first thing I want to do is see if my plants look any different.
The plants don’t actually change much from day to day. But I still like to check.
Writing a book is a little like this, too. Day to day the progress can feel minimal, but over time, a lot gets done. As I’ve gotten further into the process I’ve begun looking for opportunities to get over that next hump, or take a certain section to the next level. So I am delighted to say I’ll be spending a week at an artists’ residency in Italy, to which I was accepted last month. I’m excited about it, and nervous about getting there. I would say that I hope there will be no blog story about my trip from here to Basilicata on Tuesday, but—this is looking to be unlikely.
One thing I often think is that, for all the travel we do, I should be better at packing. I am still, usually, the person who picks up their suitcase and says, staggering, “Whoa, what did I put in here?” (And Tim says: “How many books?”) I am still, too often, the person who has to buy a touristy sweatshirt or an umbrella, because even though I looked at the weather forecast, my mind still said: “VACATION = BATHING SUIT ONLY!”
This is not because I procrastinate packing. Usually I start quite early, because packing makes me feel like I’m going somewhere, which is always kind of exciting. My friends Anna and Steve, it turns out, are packing ninjas. We met them last summer in Spain and shared about three days of their week-plus trip from the US. So–I was traveling for, total, 4-5 days. They were traveling for around 8. They were packed like it was a weekend getaway. I might be remembering this incorrectly, but I don’t even think they checked their bag, from which they not only produced clean clothes but also more surprising items, like whole board games. I had a heavy, checked bag and then bought a giant pottery bowl, which I had to carry on my lap the whole way home.
As I am supposed to be packing this afternoon, I have reflected on some of my packing blunders, so I can (perhaps?) better avoid them, or at least laugh at them.
1. Always pack more books. You don’t want to run out. You have a Kindle (like me)? You still need a couple paperbacks. And… maybe a hardcover.
2. Start with the completely wrong size suitcase for your trip. For 9 days in Italy, I dragged out the tiniest bag we have, convinced this was all I would need. (Tim thinks I’m nuts.)
3. Need a lot of toiletries. I don’t even think I use many toiletries on a daily basis, but somehow when I get ready to travel I get a sudden need for products. At least one of them must be full-size. Huge sunscreen. Plus aloe, just in case.
4. Upgrade, after packing reassessment, to a much bigger suitcase. If there is any extra space in it—you’re not done packing.
5. Start to speculate that you should bring things “in case the place you’re staying doesn’t have them.” This may include items like a fan, a hair dryer, or even a coffee percolator.
5. Ten minutes before you have to head out the door to the airport or train, panic and throw in a bunch more clothes, for unlikely weather options. Then comment on how heavy the bag is as you depart.
Buon viaggio! I can’t wait to see what the plants—and the words—look like when I’m back.