I am a hobbit. Except for the pointed ears and furry feet, I have all the characteristics of a hobbit. The soles of my feet are leathery and I have short legs. I’m not much taller than a hobbit either. And their eating schedule works for me: Breakfast at 7 AM, Second Breakfast at 9 AM, Elevenses at 11 AM, Lunch at 1 PM, Afternoon Tea at 3 PM, Dinner at 6 PM and Supper at 9 PM. And, like all hobbits, I am not a seeker of adventure. I don’t like adventures. I like my home and all the comforts therein. In the words of the esteemed Bilbo Baggins, “I have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, and uncomfortable things.”
There is only one thing I would love to do before I die. I won’t go so far as to call it an adventure, but I’ve been dreaming for the past 40 years of going alone to a writer’s retreat.
There is a retreat in Alaska where writers inhabit their own tiny cabin. Meals are provided in cute little baskets and left on the steps of each cabin, so as not to disturb the writer’s concentration. There is no TV or internet to distract. There is only the fertile silence, the sensuous smell of pine needles, and that inspiring view from the cabin.
I get downright giddy imagining myself hunkered down in one of those cozy cabins, snow falling outside, a hot cup of coffee on the table next to my laptop, and the sound of wood crackling in a wood burning stove as I write all day with no interruptions, no meals to prepare, no clothes to wash, no kids to care for, and no demands on my time.
Being the hobbit that I am, I decided to create my own “retreat” in the comfort of my own home over a weekend in November when my husband would be away in Connecticut. I planned to disconnect the phone, unplug the TV and lock myself in for a full weekend of writing. I was very excited, as only a hobbit could be, about staying home alone surrounded by silence.
Little did I know that my husband had planned something else for me while he was away. I’m turning 70 on October 10th, so he wanted to give me something big, something I’ve been dreaming of for years. He wanted to give me and adventure.
To my surprise, he reserved a tiny beach house on the North Shore, an hour away from home on the east end of Long Island. I would be on the beach, overlooking the Long Island Sound for my own personal writer’s retreat. I was speechless as he pulled out his phone and showed me pictures of the place he had reserved for me on the Air BnB web site.
I couldn’t catch my breath as I imagined myself sitting at the table in the outdoor winterized porch, gazing out across the Long Island Sound, sipping my morning coffee as I gathered my thoughts for a solid day of writing ahead. I imagined solitary morning walks along the seashore, watching the sun rise as ideas flourished in my head for the next chapter in my book, then an afternoon storm to get cozy inside and write. In the evenings, with classical music playing in the background, I would edit my writing while sipping wine from a local East End vineyard.
“It’s the best gift you have ever given me!” I cried, my eyes misting over with joy.
He was beaming too. “I finally got it right!” he said. “A gift you love that you can’t return.”
That’s when it hit me. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Don’t you have a window for cancellation?”
“Well, sure,” he said. “But I have to finalize it by tomorrow.”
“What if I get sick that weekend and I can’t go?”
“That’s different,” he said. “If you get sick, I can cancel it within 48 hours. But I have to let him know for sure to reserve it by this time tomorrow.”
I hesitated a bit too long. He was frowning now. He must have sensed the shift in my mood. I had gone from total elation to a dark sense of foreboding. Thoughts raced through my mind: I will be totally alone. What if I fall down those steep stairs to the backyard, break my neck and am laying there for days, paralyzed at the bottom of the steps? What if my appendix bursts? What if I have an A-fib attack and there is no one there to take me to the hospital? What if there’s a hurricane and the storm surge is so high it comes into the house? I won’t be able to escape if fallen trees block the only road out. There are so many trees around the beach house – some right over the roof. One of them could fall through the roof while I’m sleeping. What if the smoke alarms go off at two in the morning – like they always do. My husband wouldn’t be there to reach up to the ceiling and change the batteries. I would need an extension ladder to reach the ceiling. But should I assume there isn’t a real fire in the bungalow? It’s such a remote area, so secluded. Who the hell goes there in November? It’s a summer place. Would I be the only occupant in that dark wooded area? What if someone breaks into the house in the middle of the night and there’s no one there to hear me scream for help?
“Ugh!” I groaned. “Why couldn’t you just let me stay home alone for the weekend?!”
“Are you serious?” he asked. “Don’t you want to go? You’ve been talking about this for years!”
I stared back at him. I had finally gotten a lifelong dream – a real writer’s retreat. It was the adventure part that I didn’t want. At age 70, I had lost any sense of adventure I might have once had. It was hard to admit, but I was afraid to be so totally, helplessly alone in the dark scary woods.
“Let me know before I finalize it,” he said, his mood deflated. “Because it’s not cheap! Not that you’re not worth it,” he added quickly, “but then I’ll have to come up with something else to get you for your birthday.”
“No! No! I want to go!” I said, trying to convince myself. “It will be… exciting! An adventure!” I added, my voice an octave higher than normal.
I couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about all the catastrophes that could happen. I worked myself up to such a frenzy that my heart started racing and I feared I would go into A-fib right then and there. The only way I finally got to sleep was to tell myself: You’re not going! Just cancel it and get a refund.”
And that’s exactly what we did. Instead, I came up with an idea that worked better for me. We rented a house on a lake in Connecticut for the same weekend in November. It’s only 15 minutes away from my son’s house. My husband will spend the days at my son’s house, helping him build a home office, as originally planned. That will leave me alone in the house all day, writing on a table that overlooks the lake for my personal writer’s retreat. In the evenings, my husband will return and spend the night with me. If my appendix bursts or I go into A-fib, if I fall down the stairs, someone can get to me in 15 minutes. And if someone breaks into the house in the middle of the night, at least my husband will be there to hear me scream.
Now I’m wondering about those bear sightings in the Connecticut area where my son lives. He sent me a video of a bear wandering in the street in front of his driveway last week. I know bears can break into houses. Maybe I shouldn’t walk alone around the lake at the crack of dawn. I’ll stay away from the windows if I see one approach the property and be sure to lock all the doors when my husband leaves in the morning. You see what I mean about adventures? Take it from me, a certifiable hobbit, they are nasty, disturbing and uncomfortable things.