Sunday, July 15, 2018

Writing, Respite and Denali

I'm still here in beautiful rural Washington. There's not much to do but relax and listen to the birds, putter around the beautiful house, wander outside and chat with the goats, read novels (Tommy Orange's There, There and Ottessa Moshfegh's Eileen), read some poetry (Marie Howe's Magdalene), eat a plum, eat a peach, let a corner of a chocolate bar melt in my mouth, suck on a Tootsie Pop and gaze at the Bird Photographer.

I haven't written much, but I've arranged and re-arranged my hundreds of pages into a sort of order. It took hours and hours to do that much, but a structure is finally, literally, at the tip of my fingers. My plan is to finish up in the next day or so and then, when I get home, re-type the whole lot and send to the editor as a rough -- extremely rough -- draft.

The Pacific Northwest in the summer is perfection. It was here -- or up in Victoria -- where I spent a week by myself only four years ago, a recipient of the magnificent Heather McHugh's organization, Caregifted. That week changed my life and opened me to the possibility of and hope for more respite from the life of caregiving that, while enormously rewarding and filled with grace, has also drained me of myself or the essence that keeps me vital. I realized then how important it was to seek respite in whatever way I could, to open myself up to the possibility of replenishment and to work just as hard to get that as I do to take care of my daughter. While I am aware of the enormous privileges I've been granted that others just do not have, I also remember the nearly twenty years without significant respite. I remember what it was like to have no hope for it.

We caregivers must get back to ourselves as if our life depended on it because it does.

photographer: Carl Jackson

Listen to the latest Who Lives Like This podcast -- a rousing discussion of nurturing the self with Paige Figi, the director of Coalition for Access Now and the mother of Charlotte of the famous Charlotte's Web cannabis oil. Jason and I interviewed Paige just a week before she climbed Denali, the highest peak in North America. Here's the link:

Who Lives Like This?!

Yeah. I know. Not all of us will climb Denali, even if we desired to do so. Yet, still, there's joy to be had no matter how you choose to find yourself.

As my friend, writer Chris Rice said the other day, Your book is your Denali.



  1. I just finished listening to that episode (?) this morning and it blew me away. Paige is an amazing person, as are all of you extreme parenting people and she certainly gave ME a lot to think about too in the area of self-nurturing. I'd also like to say that the question you ask all of your guests about what gets them out of bed in the morning is really knocking around my head. I'm not really sure what gets me out of bed in the morning and I find that disturbing.
    Your pictures here are so beautiful, Elizabeth. It's a true glory that you are getting this opportunity and it's not just a gift to you and your Bird Photographer but to the world you inhabit.

  2. Your time in Washington sounds divine. That 'down time' is a must for everyone, but especially, I think, for full time caregivers such as yourself. Your life has many facets, caregiver being one very important one, and all aspects must be tended to so that you may flourish in whatever way you can. And you are. The way you juggle, manage, and organize your time is an inspiration to me. Keep on keepin' on, E.!

  3. Respite can be as simple as a 30 minute dinner in the backyard without interruption as my husband and I experienced just this past Saturday. It was shear joy! Seemed easier to go back to doing all the "Josh stuff" after that--if that makes any sense.

  4. This is gorgeous, every bit of it. So happy you have this opportunity and are savoring it all.
    That tree picture reminded me of this link I saw this morning.
    I agree, it really is perfect up here just now. XXOO

  5. I am Glad that the Book is coming together, but also Glad that you are taking the time to just be still and enjoy doing things that don't involve any kind of Work but just Bliss! Respite is something I too struggled to be able to do for a very long time when I didn't have the Option for it. Now that I have some Options for it, it was still a struggle in that I found I felt a twinge of guilt sometimes, which was odd because it was a rare luxury and gift to Self to be able to do it for even brief periods of time. But I'd find myself worrying about whoever was looking after my Disabled Loved Ones, because there are several of them I knew what a handful that was for any Volunteer who was filling in for me. Now, The Man and The G-Kid Force no longer need a fill in person if I'm just out for a brief period of time... whew! The Adult Disabled Kids finally found Independence and can Live it, nothing short of a Miracle I dare not Hope for when they were Younger since the prognosis for Independent Living was grim! The Daughter {Mom of The Force} has extreme Living as an Independent Adult SMI with Schizophrenia and other types of Mental Health Disorders on top of that... but she is Happy... and that's all I've ever wanted for any and all of them... to Live THEIR best Life possible. We should also Live ours, as Caregivers, as best as we possibly can... that is our Gift to Self AND to all of them really. I'm so Glad you are having this Special Time for yourself Elizabeth!

  6. I am so glad you have this respite, in that glorious place, with that sweet man. Your photographs are sumptuous, and I love seeing you with that aura of freedom and joy emanating from you as you hug that tree. As for the book, the work you are doing is perfect. As I've learned, not all writing entails actually writing. So much of it is mulling and musing and carrying the book in your heart and head. I can't wait for the finished work. Love to you dear friend.



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