We sit in the corner of a busy, local restaurant in our own quiet space of catching up, nibbling on organic cheeses and sipping wine. My friend laments, “I always have tons of ideas. I just don’t have the time to make them into reality.” My experience is different from hers of free flowing ideas within the busyness. For me, ideas are born in the empty moments. In the busyness the ideas lie dormant and inaccessible. In that restaurant moment, I was taken back to the time when I began to understand the importance of time.
In the spring of 1994 I was thick in the middle of getting my master’s degree in literacy. I was working at a school as a teacher and raising two young children, as well as in the beginning throws of caring for a husband who was recently diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease. My world was busy from sun-up to sundown and beyond. I loved the degree I was getting and got value in all of the course work. But it was busywork—a means to get to an end; it was not a place of exploration and creation—something I valued in what a good education should be.
My dad, who lived in Florida at the time was struggling with emphysema and needed someone to support him as his health began to decline. A great gift was about to avail itself to me in my decision to leave my Rochester family for a week to be with my ailing father. I said goodbye to my husband and my two young children for a week, leaving them to tend our Rochester life, as I headed to my father’s house in Sanibel Island, computer and backpack in tow. My goals were to take care of my dad and to catch up on my school work.
The week was a luxurious one for me. I provided company for my dad and gave him the medicinal and emotional support he needed. And I had space. Space to think. Space to take long luxurious laps in the pool. Space to take walks that went for miles. Space to create. Dad and I had this daily ritual. He dropped me off at Jupiter Beach and I walked. He picked me up at the beach several miles up the road a couple of hours later. I would jog, walk, skim the ocean with my toes, venture in deeper and then begin the ritual all over again. An empty time, filled with unobligated space. Time that became fertile thinking ground for me. Time where ideas and creativity were able to break through the soil of my mind and come alive in words that I wrote later in the day.
We met in the parking lot of the northern beach and went out to breakfast. Then we would go home or to an appointment. And in the afternoon I would work…to my heart’s content. The ideas flowed. I wrote and I created and I fell in love with that world. My dad complained that I had come to Florida and all I was doing was taking care of him and working. He would tell me to go out and have fun. But, that world of ideas and creation was luxurious fun.
That spring trip allowed several things to germinate. I created a beautiful piece of writing that served as the cornerstone for the work I was doing for my master’s degree and became the bedrock of the next 15 years of my career. I learned that space and time are the fertile soil where ideas germinate in me and vowed to continue to create that space in the busyness. And I also added to my bucket list—a summer on a beach to write.
When my writing students over the years would say things like, “I don’t know what to write,” or “I don’t have anything to write about,” one of the ways I offer support is to give them space and time. In that unrushed space of workshop, working side-by-side with other like-minded students in our community of writers, ideas grow and become words and poems and essays and narratives.
With time, ideas germinate. With time, those ideas and life grows.