Hand Me the Sunblock, I’m Out Of Here…

How does anyone do any work in the summer?

Is it just me who has a problem with this?  The temperature hits above the 80s and I want to just pack it in and find a beach somewhere.  Forget that I have responsibilities and bills to pay – Just get me near some water.  Pronto.

We live in a coastal city in California so June is no problem because it’s overcast for most of the day.  June gloom they call it, and I can deal with that. A cloudy day in summer never stops me from working. But July 4th hits and all bets are off.  In July, the sun becomes a regular visitor and I start looking for excuses to push myself away from my desk, to take a break from the routine, and to just relax.  No errands.  No loads of laundry or cooking to do. No bills to open (or to make me nervous). No problems of everyday life.

I’m going to be doing that next week – breaking the routine.

We’re throwing some suitcases in the trunk of the car and heading north up U.S.101 for a much-needed break. There’s always some last minute pangs of guilt, “But how can we board the dog for a entire week?!” “How can we afford a week away?” “There are deadlines, and bills, and errands, and this, and that, and yada yada yada…” There are a thousand reasons to stay home, but one big reason to go.

This photograph always reminds me why:

I love this photo. It reminds me of what I do as a writer: The concentration.  The loneliness.  The single light shining in the darkness.  This is a photo I took years ago when I pushed myself away from my desk and went with my 82 year-old grandfather, my brother, and my four cousins to Europe. It was a few years before that car accident I had, and the agoraphobia that complicated my life.  It was taken in Notre Dame Cathedral on a bright sunny day with hundreds of awestruck tourists milling about inside that glorious church.  I turned to leave, and as I headed for those magnificent double wooden doors covered in 13th century iron scrollwork, I saw a small light being cast in the corner. Something about it tempted me to search for its source and as I came around one of the cathedral’s pillars I spotted this sight in the corner.  Out of the way from most of the tourists, I had found something that no one else had seen.  I lifted my camera and took three quick shots.  And then, the gentleman moved, got up from the sanctity of his work, and exited through a back door.

But I had the shot.

I never would’ve captured that moment if I had stayed at home.

For those of you who have been following my little life stories here at my website, you know that I’m a recovering agoraphobic since a car accident in my 20s. I wrote a book about it, about my struggles with learning to feel comfortable and safe again, teaching myself how to overcome the fear of driving to get back into the world once more. I went to a book signing earlier in the year for that book, and a woman raised her hand and asked me, “What’s wrong with staying at home?”

She caught me off guard and I really didn’t have the words to explain. It’s so easy to get comfortable staying at home nowadays.  Everything can be done on the internet.  You meet people.  You rent movies.  Order groceries, clothes, shoes, anything you need.  Our personal worlds are shrinking.  No more do we go to Blockbusters on a Friday night to choose a weekend movie, asking a clerk, or maybe the young woman standing in the movie musicals section what she thinks might be a good choice. No longer do we go to Borders or Barnes & Noble just to see what’s new on the shelves or to ask an elderly gentleman standing in line what he thinks might be an interesting suspense novel to buy.  I can understand why that woman in that small independently owned bookstore asked me, “What’s wrong with staying home?” Seriously: Why leave the comfort and safety of your own home?  Why do it?

I only wish I could’ve shown that woman the photograph. 

Have a good week!  I’ll see you when I come back…

20 thoughts on “Hand Me the Sunblock, I’m Out Of Here…

    • We’re off to the Sacramento area, and then back again. But we’re breaking up the trip and seeing some of Hubbie’s family. Where are you located? Let me know your information offline, and maybe we can stop for a quick meet and great cup of Java.


  1. Darlene, wonderful post, I thoroughly enjoyed! The photograph is very special and you were very fortunate to have captured such a rare Kodak moment. It is when I see pictures such as this that my inner voice says, “Don’t leave home without my camera!”


  2. What a great photo! I was reminded of a Dalai Lama quote while reading this post. It’s a long quotation about our changing times but there’s a couplet: “We’ve been all the way to the moon and back; but have trouble crossing the street to meet the neighbor.” Hopefully we can change this. Ha! At least we’re socializing online!


    • Along those lines: I am sitting in a Starbucks with four total strangers, and every one of us has our computer open and our attention online. Here I sit so close to other humans and far away (I’m sure) where you are sitting reading this. And yet, we are having a conversation. A stop and go conversation, but a conversation nevertheless. Times, they have changed! And you, who I have not met and do not know (except through our respective blogs) and I have met because of two photographs: this one taken at Notre Dame in Paris, and the Locks of Love photograph on your blogsite, a photo I might add that was also shot in Paris. My daughter just became engaged a week ago in Paris and the day before added her own lock of love to that fence. Such a small world after all.


  3. Photo looks like subject is reading rather than writing. There appears to be a folded newspaper on the desk. Perhaps “Herald Tribune”? “Le Monde”? “Paris Match”? Interesting picture though. Could be Gertrude Stein. You should have photo shopped out the electric cord and placed a quill in the old guy’s hand. It does occur to me that clerical scribes were usually copying something, not creating their own original work. Life’s a beach but not too many waves in Sacramento. I think it is on a river. Hot as hell. Got to go. “Breaking Bad” is about to start. Now that’s original writing.
    Paul Kael


  4. Oh yes, he is definitely reading, and not writing. What is interesting is that he isn’t wearing his reading glasses. They seem to be sitting on the table just directly in front of him. And by the way, I would never consider photoshopping a photo like this. I like capturing the moment and then figuring out the story around that moment.


  5. I found the woman’s question intriguing. It is easy as a writer to want to stay home so I can accomplish my writing goals. But I need people and experiences to write about. The internet lacks the personal contact. Going to the places I write about gives me a different perspective than just reading about them. Traveling to areas in the Philippines and Korea that are tourist never see to meet people the world will never know is worth leaving my home. Taking my grandchildren on an adventure and seeing the experience through their eyes is priceless.


    • I love everything you’ve written here in your comment. I wish you’d been in that bookstore when that question was asked. And although I’m not a grandmother yet (“Taking my grandchildren on an adventure and seeing the experience through their eyes is priceless.”) I do know that having children helped me with the agoraphobia. I write a little about that in my book. They helped me go back into the world again and not see it as a frightening place, but one of wonder and amazement. Thanks so much for reading this post and for taking the time to leave such wonderful comments!


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