Karen Casey Fitzjerrell

Author of award-winning Forgiving Effie Beck

Month: March 2010

Sabbatical Day Three

Evening. The moon rises above the hills and a bird cries gull-like outside my window. A long hush follows which could be frightening if I let my imagination run free. I glance at my compass on the dresser next to where I sit knitting. I bought the compass years ago after a series of events imploded everything I’d valued. It goes everywhere I go, a reminder to stay true to my course.

Knit a row, purl a row. Do it again. The outside world is slipping away one thin layer at a time, like the peel of onion skin.

The refrigerator cycles on and startles me.

Sabbatical Day Two

A frosty northwest wind blew all night. I nearly froze – would have – I’m convinced, had it not been for two small electric space heaters I found in a closet in the bathroom and a heating pad I’d thrown in my suitcase at the last minute. Actually you could say it was the heating pad that saved me, since I was not comfortable leaving the heaters on all night. The coffee pot worked like a charm, praise be! I needed the hot brew in a desperate way. After a couple of cups, I bundled as if for the North Pole and ventured out toward the lake where mist ascended, wispy and white from the water, blurring edges along the shoreline and the folds between the hills. As I made my way through high weeds, a flock of coots and a few mallards flushed from a cove nearby causing me to startle and gasp.

Water levels are pitifully low on all the Highland Lakes in Texas. Not since I was a small girl has there been such a drought. The pier, from which I took this photo, is on dry land a football field’s distance from the water. Recent winter rains are helping but lasting recovery is a long way off.

A dog belonging to the proprietor made morning rounds while I was on my way back to my cabin from the dry-docked pier. I recognized her breed as some sort of working dog, sheep herder maybe, and this made me trust her even as she barked a warning at me. I held my hand out for her to sniff. She indicated I could pass but warned with her eyes and ears that I should be on my best behavior.

Back inside the cabin I discovered I had only two matches to light the stove. The first match fizzled out – too long in the damp, I suppose. The second took and I was able to light the burner for a scrambled egg. However, I knew I’d have to stop by the office for more before the landlords left for wherever it was they were going for a few days. Having a way to cook wasn’t my concern, since I’d brought microwavable food. Mostly I wanted a way to scramble eggs and to heat and dry some of the damp cold in the cabin. The space heaters were maddeningly noisy.

By mid-day the affects of isolation crept up my spine. The television displayed nothing more than flickering snow. No telephone, no internet connection either. But I decided I could post to my blog after returning home just as well as in real time. The solitude suited my purpose perfectly.

Sabbatical Day One


My Sabbatical Headquaters for the week


A Bleak and Cold Day

Yesterday I drove here, to the hills northeast of Llano, Texas and the upper reaches of Lake Buchanan. The day was bleak – blowing cold, damp wind, a threat of rain.
When I signed up for a seven day stay at this camp of eight or so cabins, the proprietor told me I’d be the only guest for the whole week. And then, as I stepped off his porch he added, like a post script, that he and his wife would be away for part of the week. The thought of being so isolated thrilled and scared me at the same time. But that evening I remembered how he had given me a questioning look as I walked away, and thought perhaps I’d missed some of his meaning. Maybe I should be frightened.

My cabin, which was probably built in the mid 30s, is about fourteen by twenty feet. At one end is a hammock-shaped bed and next to it, a lady’s dresser that looks as if it is original to the place. A shiny red metal chair with a black and white zebra print cushion is pushed into the knee hole. At the other end of the room is a refrigerator, a sink and a tiny, very old propane stove. A door between the refrigerator and the bed leads to a bathroom as diminutive for its purpose as the stove. I decided it would do.

On the short wall adjacent the sink is a stand with a microwave oven and auto drip coffee pot on top. These two items and a television sitting on a small dresser are the only signs that I haven’t stepped from a time machine into a long gone decade.
Except for the dresser, a small table and chairs, red curtains on the windows and the zebra print cushion, everything is painted snowy white.

Most striking about my Sabbatical Headquarters is the smell. Cashmere Bouquet. My nose-memory put me back four decades to my grandmother’s house. Still, I know I must look ahead to my purpose for being here, which is to empty my head of daily trivia and then fill it back up with publishable work.