Karen Casey Fitzjerrell

Author of award-winning Forgiving Effie Beck

Category: writing sabbatical

The Power That Beckons

A few years ago, I realized with an excited flutter that I had two or three days of free time between writing projects. Without much planning I headed for the sea, the Gulf of Mexico – North Padre Island – to be exact. The lullaby of my childhood had been the caw and screech of sea gulls. I received my first kiss sitting on a pier that reached far out into Trinity Bay. And, every summer of my youth I fished and crabbed the bays and inlets with my cousins until our skin was the color of ketchup. Still, during the three hour drive to Padre Island, I struggled to understand the power that beckons me south at times like that. It’s as if I’m called to heed a different code for living, if only for a short while.

After checking into my room I changed into a swim suit and dashed out to walk in the warm sand along the water’s edge. It was late day, a time when sunlight strikes the waves at low, long angles and the water shimmers clear and green as Chinese jade. I could not help but worry about Louisiana, my “sister state,” and how awful it was to watch TV footage of crude oil spewing into precious waters that literally housed my growing-up history. I wondered if people born land-locked far from any shore could possibly understand how painful it was to watch the ruin, to know the future of the Gulf of Mexico was in horrible danger and maybe forever changed by the careless hand of man.

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” Isak Dinesen

The next day I waded out to a sand bar, floated on my back and hoped the rhythm of the sea would swallow me. The tide was low, what I think of as soft tide because the waves come in and go out like shallow breaths. I felt suspended on the edge of some dreamy “other” world where all movement, all life is determined by the Cosmos. Brown Pelicans, awkward creatures on land and yet elegant and graceful in the air, sailed above me on a gentle wind, mindlessly following a DNA pattern passed down over the millennia. It was easy to forget a world of email, cell phones, deadlines and oil spills.

During the drive home I felt healed. From what, I have no idea. I stopped to buy a few groceries and on impulse picked up a bouquet of roses. Since I’d never done such an extravagant thing, I could only blame the wind and the waves, the pull of the sea beckoning my particular DNA. I rationalized that the roses were for the sea, the power that had rescued me, made me worthy once again before depositing me back on life’s shore to return to my dreams and my stories.

It’s a blessing to know there is a place at the edge of land where I can let go of the ego-driven drama manufactured by every day life. A place where the Cosmos rules and eventually restores the mess of humans.  

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.