Monday, March 22, 2010

Duty, Vacation, or Work?

I am writing this from Culebra Island—20 miles off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Culebra is seven miles of winding hills and valleys shaped like a long winding snake. There are no high rises or resorts, just shabby shacks, rattling jeeps, aimless chickens, and turquoise sea.
This is where my mother lives. So this is where I go to visit her—as all good daughters do. Duty?
Of course a week with mom means I need an escape outlet. So I’ve been reading books just for pleasure, sipping a strong cafĂ© con leche on the dock, and swimming every day. Vacation?
And then there’s the research. My picture-book-in-progress involves a scuba diving bunny, so to capture a believable essence it helps to go under water myself. I couldn’t get scuba certified, but I could take a snorkel and mask and hop in. Snorkeling is a divine experience for anyone creative. You enter a world with thousands of species with symbiotic relationships, danger, survival, and peace. And you get to be another swimming thing with all the others, observing a way of life that exists on this planet with us humans but is utterly foreign and often never seen. See the proof of my research in the photos Work?

As writers everything we do is part of our work. Every experience combines and we get to make meaning of it. Of course the real work of my trip may not be the underwater illustration research, but the connection of that world to the relationships that go on above the sea. Or something else entirely that hasn’t hit me yet. While doing one thing, something unexpected may arise. Vacation is the best place to work, and family dynamics are ripe for writers. What a perfect combination.

(PS faculty member, Liza Ketchum is here as well--she's been coming to Culebra with her husband for twelve years. Great writer minds think alike.)


  1. "shabby shacks, rattling jeeps, aimless chickens, and turquoise sea"--and internet access! Now that's my idea of a vacation (and I'd accept my duty to do a little work there, too)! Enjoy!

    And does poor Cordelia miss this adventure, too? :(

  2. Oh, sounds divine, Lisa. Thanks for sharing some sunshine as I write from rainy Spokane. I agree. Every experience, uplifting or challenging, is grist for the mill. CRM

  3. "We get to make meaning of it." So true. I will keep this in mind when I'm in Phoenix and Vegas with my mom next week and perhaps feeling a little...stressed.

  4. One of your best illustrations yet, Lisa. I love snorkeling. We always vacationed in the FL Keys when I was a kid.
    So many great lines in this post. But I think I like this one best:
    "Or something else entirely that hasn’t hit me yet." How true.