Travel, Writing, Life

Karen Shoemaker

Friday, September 18, 2020

This week Facebook offered up a flurry of five-year-old memories of a trip to New York City, sparked by a photo of me standing in front of the KGB Bar sign that was taken just before I was to give a reading there. The photographer was my good friend Teri Youmans, a poet from Jacksonville Florida, who a year later would travel with me to London where we both would read at a place called the Horse Hospital, an event venue that was, in the distant past – not surprisingly – an actual horse hospital in that historic city.

This week my planner also offered me two full weeks of smudged pages, sad evidence of a multitude of erasures. If not for the Covid pandemic, I would be in Greece right now, this time in the company of another writing friend, Dorothy Ramsey, with whom I’ve joined dreams to create writing retreats in exotic locations. Our first planned endeavor was/is a writers’ retreat in “the birthplace of literature,” but travel bans put a temporary kibosh on that.  

What I mean to say here is, I miss traveling. I miss every memory-making moment, every mundane detail, every rushed, almost-missed connection, every blurred photo op, every blistered heel, every life-changing epiphany born of confusion and fatigue. I miss it all.

What about you? What do you miss from the Before Time? The days before the pandemic?

I know I’ve been incredibly lucky, all my life in general but here I’m referring specifically to the time during the pandemic. My family and I have remained safe and healthy, and I’ve actually had more time to focus on writing. My writing life, though I publish mostly “Nebraska stories,” has been deeply connected to my traveling life. Better writers than I – Cather and Kristeva, for example – have addressed the need for a kind of exile from the motherland in order to grow, to truly see the meaning of home. For me, to experience voluntary exile, the kind of disruption of routine that is the very nature of traveling, is to experience exhilaration and growth beneficial, and even necessary, to my writing.

In some ways, the months of this pandemic has felt like a kind of exile. Even though I am living almost entirely within the confines of my house, yard and neighborhood, breaking out now and then to pick up groceries or other essentials, I still feel as if I’m in a foreign country, sometimes. Where is this familiar place now that the context all around us has changed? Who even is this person living my life now?  

Life keeps moving, despite and because of all the changes, and here at Larksong we’re moving into a new phase, expanding and growing our community. This week we launched a series on-line classes at Larksong with a new group of leaders and writers. The ever-inspiring Lucy Adkins began a 4-week Memoir Writing class, Grace Bauer led a fabulous two-day poetry workshop, and I began a 5-week MFA-style writers’ workshop with a small group of dedicated writers.

It was an exhilarating launch of events for our young organization. I loved a million things about it – not the least of which was being able to write over the erasure smudges in my planner, recording details of the life we’re living now, COVID be damned.

P.S... A note about our trip to Greece - I hasten to say those dreams are delayed, not ended. We have re-scheduled it for next September! Check out the details on our website under Workshops. Join us!


Larksong is committed to supporting both the writers who come to us for instruction and the writers who come to us to teach. We keep our class fees low, offer free programming, and pay our instructors. Please consider supporting our mission by making a tax-deductible donation.