It feels like I’ve been away along time, but was really only 8 days. Dropped Bhikku off at the kennel last week – I feel kind of guilty for not feeling guilty about this, but he seems to be thrilled to see Peg & Mark and their dog guests, so I’ve convinced myself he enjoys it – and then drove to Indiana for our annual family get together. We did this around Thanksgiving for a few years in a row and we started calling it The Big Chill, after the great movie about old friends getting together for a funeral. But last year we did it in the summer to coincide with my nephew’s wedding and we did in the summer again this year because . . . I don’t know why, although there are a number of family birthdays in July – August and it seemed like a good excuse for cakes, I guess. The name has morphed, as well: The Summer Chill.
Except it wasn’t chilly. It was hot, in fact. The out-of-town members of the family – from Chicago and Virginia – stayed at the Hayes House, where we stayed last year. It’s a grand old Richmond, Indiana house on the estate that became a public arboretum and it’s furnished with antiques and a wonderful library of old books. The weekend included much cooking, eating, playing with the latest generation (that would be Emma and Henley), and fireworks, among other things.
I then moved on to Brown County, Indiana, home of a forest reserve and also the town of Nashville, which has been an artists’ colony for almost 100 years. I rented a log cabin that supposedly once was used by Booth Tarkington as a writing retreat and I did feel inspired – most of the time I was there I worked reasonably steadily and I feel I got a lot done. There was a bit of a problem, though. On my third night in the cabin I woke to a noise. As soon as I switched on the light I saw the problem: a bat was swirling through the room (I was in the sleeping loft, which is open in two places to the main part of the cabin). I don’t like bats (does anyone?) and I don’t know what to do with them when they get inside. You can sort of ignore mice, or just turn on the lights and make noise and they’ll go away (not far, but out of sight at least). But the bats just fly around until morning. I had no other weapons so I grabbed my pants and started swinging them over my head. The bat got too close and I whacked him, knocking him to the floor. There was a small wastebasket nearby so I upended it over the stunned bat. Problem solved, I thought. I went downstairs then and was not happy to see a second bat. This one didn’t like the looks of me either, however, and after a few passes it dived to the floor and under the floorboard heater. When I alerted the management company the next day, they apologized but said there wasn’t much they could do. (A friend of mine said I needed a tennis racket and that was pretty much the attitude of the manager, also.) The next night I didn’t get much sleep, but as far as I know had no visitors. But Thursday night the bat came back around 5 am, flew around for an hour or so (I was better armed this time, but a tennis or badminton racket would have been much better) and by then it was time for me to load my car and leave anyway, so I just got up and left. So I surrender the cabin to the bats; I hope the next person who rents the cabin brings a tennis racket.
Despite the bats, it was a beautiful spot. The cabin had tv and a phone and a nice kitchen and batch. It was surrounded by trees so even though the temperatures were in the 90s, it was comfortable and I spent my days mostly working on the picnic table on the cabin’s deck. I also visited Nashville and checked out the galleries, and hopped over to Bloomington to see a friend.
But mostly I worked, and managed to sketch out some stories that I think are promising. I hope to share more about that work in the coming months.