I’m here in New Hope, Pennsylvania this week, helping care for A., who’s recovering from a major surgery. She’s confined mostly to bed, only allowed to get up to use the bathroom. Her partner and I take turns picking up food, making sure she stays hydrated and takes her medication, holding a plastic triangular pitcher under her catheter so she can empty her bladder.
There are quiet pockets of time for reading and writing. And yesterday, on a quest for groceries, I got to wander around for a few hours and see the town, along with neighboring Lambertville, New Jersey, a short walk across a bridge spanning the Delaware River.
It feels, almost, like a writing retreat. Almost. My first obligation is to my friend. But in a weird way it takes some of the pressure off the writing. I worry less about not sticking to my routine, about having to be at my desk to write – and when at my desk, about losing precious writing time. Here, time can only be found. And because it’s found, it’s a gift.
I read or heard somewhere recently that it’s hard to write about the place you live while you’re living there; you have to go away to see what’s remarkable, unusual about it. I’ve only been gone for a couple days, but the Detroit scenes in the manuscript already feel more dreamlike, surreal.
Then again, maybe it’s just the surreality of me being here, under these circumstances, in a town called New Hope, describing this to you.