Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Home, Sweet Spiritual Home

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

I knew a fellow one time. A writer, he was. He was from South Carolina and his name was—I swear—Beauregard. Seriously. If I put it in a book, critics would slam me for stereotyping...

Anyway, Beau, whether or not he ever actually wrote, talked a lot about writing. Back in those days, writing was my guilty secret, so I did write, but never talked about it. People who could talk about it, impressed me greatly.

If you asked Beau where he was from, he would say Columbia or Greenville—I don’t remember. “But,” he would add in the thickest South Carolina accent you ever heard, “I consider Monks’ Corner my spiritual home.” Ah considda Muunks’ Cawnah mah spurchal home. There, he said, flowed a never-ending fountain of inspiration, of ideas and words, paragraphs and plots, and when he was finally ready to write his novel, there he would go.

I didn’t have a spiritual home, that I knew of, and I wasn’t perfectly clear on how a spiritual home differed from any other kind. I was raised in a small eastern North Carolina town where we took the Bible seriously and the only spiritual home I’d ever considered was my home in Heaven where I would go to live with Jesus one day. He wasn’t talking about that.

Beau died not long after that conversation, still a very young man. He never wrote his novel.

But the notion that writers can, or could, or should, have a spiritual home in addition to a more mundane one stayed with me. When I brought my writing out of the closet (literally) the notion of spiritual home came back to me and, I realized, in the interim I had acquired one—exactly like the kind Beau meant.

My spiritual home is Topsail Island, a twenty mile long, half-mile wide barrier island on North Carolina’s coast. One barrier island is pretty much like another. There’s really nothing special about Topsail except that it’s never been commercialized like some of the other beaches. There’s no hotel, no night life. There’s nothing much at all except miles and miles of beach cottages, sand dunes and beach. I can go there and write like nowhere else on earth.

The ever-present breeze provides lift for my imagination’s wings, and the surf pounds a cadence for my words. I wake up before dawn, make a pot of coffee, and with my laptop on my knees, I write while the colors of day appear. Every time I raise my eyes from the screen, the view outside the sliders has changed.

I set SEALed With A Kiss on Topsail. Davy and JJ in SEALed with a Ring had a beach cottage there. And in an homage to Beau, who never got to write his novel, I created the tiny crossroads of Sessoms' Corner, "the someplace," the place where the roots are. I liked it so much, I sent the heroine there to live. The hero was there too. (Surprise, surprise.) And once again, there turned out to be a theme of finding the place to set one's roots. Finding the spiritual home.


How about you? Do you have a spiritual home?

19 comments:

  1. Marvelous post, as always, MM!
    The place where I write is in my bedroom, but ideas come to me in all sorts of places, mostly on the drive to and from my home and various destinations, all of which are many miles apart. However, if I had a barrier island to visit, I'm sure I'd be able to write volumes while I was there!

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  2. MM, what a thought-provoking post. My heart aches for Beau not having the opportunity to write his novel, but besides his friendship, he gave you a gift: instilling the image of a spiritual home.

    How lovely that you have Topsail Island and infused your love for the place in your books. It sounds like a beautiful haven to recharge body and soul and get those creative juices flowing!

    Although I was born in Aiken, South Carolina, I grew up deep in the heart of Yankee country, and actually found my spiritual place when I was 6 years old. My grandparents had a house at the Jersey Shore in Spring Lake, affectionately known as the Irish Riviera. Sights, scents, sounds and family surround me whenever I test the time-space continuum and visit there.

    While my spiritual place is Spring Lake, NJ in 1964, my refuge is my office with Pre-Raphaelite art and porcelain faeries surrounding me.

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  3. Interesting idea. I don't have a spiritual home. I kind of wish I did because I don't get out of the house much! It might give me somewhere to daydream about.

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  4. I really, really like this post! I like the idea of writer's spiritual home. My muse is a hermit like me and lives in a small office inside my house where covers of my books are framed and line the walls (I call it my ego room). But sometimes, like Cheryl, my muse insists that I take her outside and I get the most amazing ideas while riding in the car going nowhere but the next motel on research trips for setting locations.

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  5. Cheryl, I can't imagine ever getting enough sleep again if I wrote in my bedroom. My hat's off to you. But I know what you mean about the car being a great idea place.
    I think getting in the car is so effective because one's mind is mostly "in neutral." And I suspect Topsail works so well, because I can look at the ocean and sky for hours while my mind stays in neutral.

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  6. Colleen, I only met Beau once. He was one of the most vivid people I ever met. His passion and verve continued to scintillate on the air even after he left the room. He was under thirty when he died. When I heard he had passed, my first feeling was poignance that he never got to write his novel.

    That one meeting was a great gift to me.

    I love the thought of the "Irish Rivera" as a spiritual home. You must tell us about it someday.

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  7. Shana,

    I think a spiritual home is any place one feels connected to one's deepest self. It may be less a physical place and more of a state of mind, or a connection to one's heart.

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  8. Thanks, Carolyn.

    It sounds like your have made your office into your spiritual home.

    I think people's spiritual homes can be places like the beach that "just are," and also places that have been very consciously built and decorated.

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  9. Loved your post MM!! Well, for me it would be wherever my adventure ends up--on the Oregon coast, in Portland, in the pretend town of Silver Town in Colorado, the Grand Cayman Islands, the Highlands, in the wilds of Maine--in forests, lakes, castles, just wherever I go to be with my characters and enjoy their journey. I'd love to include so many other places I've lived or visited that all became spiritual oasis for me through the years...and now are becoming a writer's haven for setting locations!

    Great post, MM!

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  10. I loved this post. Your books have a wonderful sense of place, and now I understand why.
    For me, my spiritual home is anywhere under the big western sky. I've loved the open spaces out here since I was a kid tourist at Yellowstone. I feel like my whole world opens up the minute I hit the high plains, and my mind along with it.

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  11. Your spiritual home sounds fabulous. I could feel the wind, hear the waves and was certain I saw a seagull pass by.
    Absolutely lovely!
    Amelia

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  12. Lovely post, MM. I'll never forget the time I stepped off the train in Florence, Italy and looked around and I just knew I belonged there. I was ready to move. The only other place I felt that way was in Boise, where at the age of 7 or 8, I knew I'd live there when I grew up. I told my day on the chairlift at Bogus Basin and he said "What the heck are you gonna do in Boise, you're from Brooklyn?" I don't know what I said, but I knew that Boise was where I belonged. So far my spiritual homes are in Boise, Brooklyn and Florence.

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  13. Terry,

    I've never been to Oregon. It's on my life-list, but some other trip seems to get ahead of it. The big reason I want to do there is because when I look at pictures of the Oregon coast, I feel it calling to my heart. and I think, "Oh! There!"

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  14. Joanne,
    I haven't seen as much of the west as I would like to, but I agree there is something about the western sky which is different.

    I've always been amazed that the sky could really be bigger in some places than other--but it really can.

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  15. Amelia,

    Isn't imagination wonderful? What I love best about writing (when I get it right) is that the reader can get inside the experience with me.

    I didn't specifically mention gulls-- though they are implicit in the metaphor I used--but you saw them. See what I mean? That's just fun.

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  16. Ah Robin, how fortunate you are to have three spiritual homes. I felt some of the same sense of belonging when I stepped out onto the street the first time in Hong Kong. I would go back in a heartbeat.

    I didn't get to stay there long enough to find out if it was true love or just infatuation.

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  17. Mary Margaret, amazing blog!! Love, love, loved it! I'm from SC, btw, so I actually know exactly where Monks Corner is, lol! Was born in Columbia...went to college in Charleston.... but grew up in Marion, which we all pronounce "Murn." ;-) Thanks for a thoroughly enjoyable trip back to SC through your blog.

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  18. Hi MM! No, I don't have a spiritual home yet...still seeking one. :}

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  19. Not that I know of, but I'd like to share yours. It sounds BEAUTIFUL!

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