by Mike Crawmer
Last Friday evening, around 8:30 or so, I was floating in the bathtub-warm water of the hotel pool at Carolina Beach, looking up at the stars and wishing the moment would last forever. Of course, it couldn’t, but I it didn’t hurt to wish.
We left the North Carolina coast Saturday morning, heading north for D.C. En route we stopped in Petersburg, Virginia, to check out the local architecture and history. The quart of ice water I downed at lunch offered relief from the hot, humid day. But by evening we were sorry we hadn’t packed jeans and a sweatshirt—D.C. was downright chilly, though warm compared with the frigid house that greeted us in Pittsburgh the next afternoon. Truly, what a difference a day (and several hundred miles) makes.
North Carolina isn’t the Deep South, but I’m happy to report that the rich, languid tones of the southern accent are thriving down that way. I’ve always been fascinated (if occasionally befuddled) when exposed to a true accented American English. It all started when my family moved from York County (the very definition of “homogeneous”) to a new D.C. suburb back in the 60s: one set of neighbors was from Massachusetts, another from Texas, and still another from New York City. It was like a United Nations of English dialects. That, and studying Latin, French, German and Russian, has left me with, I think, an ear for the subtleties of language and a facility with writing dialogue (cue for my critique group members reading this to chime in with any contrary assessments).
Getting to and from North Carolina meant hours in the car searching the dial for a compatible radio station--not an easy task down South where fully one third of the stations require a twang in your singing voice and another third require some familiarity with the New Testament (especially Revelations). But one day I did hear a bit of chatter, and this example of the further debasement of our common tongue: “Before I came from being single to being married….” Honey, I wanted to scream, you didn’t “come” from one to another, you “went.” Apparently, I’m not with the times, where it seems “go” is succumbing to “come.” I would no sooner start this paragraph with “Coming to and from North Carolina” than I’d say, “Go on, let’s come” when trying to leave the house in a hurry. Why don’t people “go” anywhere nowadays? Why do they always “come” and “came”? (And don’t get me started on the almost complete replacement of “take” with “bring” in all uses.)
Lesson learned from beach vacation: Leave the laptop at home. Best intentions to write (something, anything) were never realized. Every day brought a new distraction (usually sun, sand and beach). Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be when you’re on, as the Brits say, holiday? But when I do write, I want to be in that “flow” I heard so much about on Ira Glass’s This American Life (again, while driving). That’s the state where all your creative energies are focused on the task at hand, where through discipline and diligence and a love of craft, you, the creator (of words, paintings, pottery or the crocheted pot holder) are for that time truly in the moment, unaware of time or self or the immediate world around you.
Here’s hoping you’re all experience that flow in your writing lives. It’s something I find all too rarely—though there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy the moment bobbing around in the ocean last week.