Out of Office: A Writer’s Vacation

As I post this, I am on vacation. I will be splitting vacation this year between the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where I grew up, and New York City.

Returning to the Shenandoah Valley is something of a right of passage. Autumn in the Shenandoah Valley is very important to me. Of course, I developed my love for writing in the Valley, growing up, but Autumn in particular was a very productive time for me. One of my favorite pastimes as a child was to go for a walk across my small town (in a time when a child could still do such a thing) in the chill Autumn twilight, with perhaps a cinnamon disk or a starburst mint melting in my mouth. I soaked in the autumnal atmosphere, loving the scent of woodburning stoves and fireplaces on the wind. It was a small both warm and inviting and, yes, desolate.

Now that I’m older I can see that I associated the smell with family. A family gathering around the hearth, or watching television while the fire burned in the stove. We never had such a thing. Thus, the desolation of being on the outside looking in. That actually helps me to understand why I’m so drawn to writing outsider characters, but that’s a subject for another time.

So returning to the Valley for Fall has become an annual tradition, like I said, a rite of passage. If we ever move far enough away that I can’t do it on a regular basis, it will be a deeply missed tradition. The colors down there are just spectacular, too, and I know of some back roads into the mountains that side-step the plodding pace of Skyline Drive. Places where you can get out and stretch, go into the woods for a bit.

Being a former local does, after all, have its advantages.

On the backside of the trip, we’ll be leaving for New York City. I’ve never been to NYC. I know, I sound like some bumpkin just fresh out of the country, but somehow I just missed out on it. I’ve been to Boston, I’ve been to the Twin Cities, I’ve been to Atlanta and Indianapolis and a host of other smaller cities. I’ve driven through others. I’ve just never been to New York for some reason, but the fiancee wanted to visit again, and I thought it would be worth my time to get the experience.

Strangely enough, there is a connection between the two places for me. I’ve always associated Autumn with New York because I had a desire to see Central Park when the leaves had changed. There was a time, in fact, when I had planned to propose in Central Park in the Fall. But those plans fell by the wayside. I am, however, very excited to get to see it.

Experience is just so important as a writer. I mean, sure, there are great tools these days to write like an authority. Wikipedia. Google maps. Google Street View. You can fake just about anything, but there’s something more about actually walking under the sky you’re describing, about understanding the cracks in the sidewalk. I’m eagerly anticipating the whole thing.

So in the meantime, for regular readers, I worked my heart out last week to ensure that there’s a strong cache of quality posts ready to go. And, of course, I’ll be sharing some of my experiences over on Twitter at @crimnos, if you’re curious about what I’ll be up to. Have a great week!

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  1. Thx for this, Jonathan. It was so authentic, I was walking right there with you in the valley. Enjoy your break and I look fwd to following the journey on twitter.

  2. I so miss the changing of seasons. Take a lot of pictures and enjoy!

  3. Enjoy your travels. Skyline Drive is gorgeous. I lived in Virginia for many years before moving out west. So, is Central Park. I lived in NYC right after college for a few years. The museums in NYC are fantastic. It’s what i choose to do whenever I go back.

  4. Have a wonderful vacation. Looks so gorgeous and peaceful–it’s no wonder it’s a well-loved tradition. Hope it’s everything you’ve come to expect 🙂

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