By the time you read this, Richard and I will be on the road in our little Subaru Forester laden with anti-cancer food, camping gear, laptops and books, embarking on the honeymoon we didn’t take after our wedding 28 years ago. A year ago, generous friends collected a travel fund for us, and we planned a trip to the Pacific Coast for this March.
Then my mother died, after which the hematoma in Richard’s right brain caused several brain-swelling crises, necessitating two brain surgeries and three hospitalizations. As he was recovering, the glioblastoma in his right hemisphere grew aggressively. So his oncologist started him on an every-two-week chemo infusion routine in hopes of slowing the tumor’s growth.
I’d be lying (or seriously deluded) if I said we were traveling now because he has recovered. Nope, we’re off on The Big Trip because now is our moment, and we’re seizing it.
“Seize the moment” is a good lesson for life in general, one we often get too busy to remember. It’s the kind of lesson writers in particular often have to learn over and over, as I’ve realized in planning this trip. When we originally envisioned it, we planned to drive the Pacific Coast from Vancouver, BC, to Tijuana, Mexico.
But that was back when Richard was driving. Now that we’re down to one driver, and she does not possess tons of energy, we’ve shortened the trip. We’ll plan to cover less ground each day. That’s okay though, and for a writer, may actually be better.
That’s one “seize the moment” realization: Covering less ground means we have more time to stop and poke around, and for me to, well, write. Since that’s what keeps me sane in life, arranging this long-awaited trip to make sure we get to see our favorite coast AND I have time to write is paramount.
So imagine us on the road, headed across the inland West by slow stages, headed north and west across Colorado, southern Wyoming, and into southeastern Idaho, where we’ll spend a night at one of our favorite hot springs, Lava Hot Springs. And then traversing the sea of sagebrush of southern Idaho and eastern Oregon towards the Columbia River Gorge, where we’ll ogle waterfalls on our way to the coast.
We’ll spend a couple of days in Olympia, Washington, visiting my brother and family, and then we’ll meander south, sticking to that magnificent edge where ocean crashes against the continent, through Oregon and into northern California.
We’ll camp in Redwood National Park, where the groves of redwoods are more awe-inspiring than the most beautiful cathedrals, and then continue on south, planning to hit San Francisco on a Friday afternoon so we can spend the weekend with Molly.
Then south again, following Highway One along the wild coast of Big Sur for a night in a favorite lodge tucked atop a cliff with a splendid view of miles of rugged coastline… From there, who knows what our route home will be. It’ll depend on how well my energy is holding out, and how well Richard is doing.
That’s the other “seize the moment” lesson here. Last week, Richard’s oncologist confirmed what we both suspect: he’s on a long, gradual decline. His brain function will continue to slowly deteriorate, his body will decline, and eventually he’ll be gone from this particular life. It might take six months, might be a year.
So now is our moment. As a writer, that’s a good reminder: None of us know what’s ahead.
Our moment could be gone in the kind of blink of an eye that send my formerly rudely healthy husband–the guy who never needed to see a doctor or take medication–to the hospital seeing birds two years ago, and brought the diagnosis of brain cancer.
Here’s the lesson: If you have something to say on the page, don’t hesitate. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t make excuses. Seize every moment you find to write. Honor your voice and your stories. Starting now. Because this moment is all we have–take it from me. Write. Now.