I’m winding down a seven-month stay in the Dominican Republic with mixed emotions. On one hand I am looking forward to returning to life on Prince Edward Island with Mister Stihl (yes forging new paths with the trusty chainsaw will never end), enjoying the beauty of the forest and the ocean, seeing my friends, and tightening up my writing schedule (yes, admittedly I’ve become a little lax living my dream on a Caribbean island).
But there is always a flip side, always a little gray area that blurs our subjective perspective of reality. I thought initially it would be an easy thing for me to leave here (black white if you like) and adjust to a completely different life in Canada. I know now that is not true. I have forged some deep friendships and intimate bonds. The upcoming trip to the airport will be an emotional and a difficult one. Puerta Plata, with its quirks, dangers, and cultural idiosyncrasies, has become my home. At the risk of using a corny and overused cliché, home is where the heart is. And right now my heart is firmly embedded here. Sure, it’s been a difficult cultural adjustment to spend this much time in the DR. Service for the most part isn’t as efficient as in Canada, the island doesn’t offer the same diversity of culinary delights as you would find in Canada, you must always remember to put your toilet paper in a garbage can instead of down the toilet, the power outages are frequent and long lasting, internet connectivity is often spotty and slow, and almost everything seems to move in slow motion. Not too mention the abject poverty and the money agenda of many Dominicans. Or the fact that occasionally foreigners are brutally murdered and robbed.
But where else would I get a police escort home after having one too many drinks (no they weren’t arresting me, they were looking after me), be able to enter a restaurant with a road pop, be able to meet more beautiful women than I can shake a stick at, drink on the beach freely and without fear of police intervention, and create a social life like that of a rock star?
Not at my other home, I can tell you that much.
So with heavy heart I leave this Friday. I will be leaving behind people I love and care about deeply. People who would give me the shirts off their backs and come running to my aid if I ever found myself in a jam.
But, alas, you are probably wondering if this blog post even has a point. Don’t worry, I was wondering the same thing a little while ago. But it does and, bear with me, I’m getting to it. When I started this journey almost seven months ago I told myself maybe I will write a lot when I am gone and maybe I won’t.To justify my lackadaisical attitude I referred to a quote by Henry David Thoreau: ” How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” But as the months down here wore on and my productivity dropped off (to be sure I have done a hell of a lot of what I like to call research and have made scant inroads into a new novel) I started feeling guilty. Guilty because I often heard myself say, out loud and in my cinematic mind, that writing was my passion and the most important thing in my life.
Well frankly speaking I was wrong and Thoreau was right. I can’t pretend to sit down and write if I have not stood up to live. I can’t pretend to write about love found and love lost if I have not lived it. I can’t pretend to write about brutal murders or vicious robberies and beatings if I haven’t experienced them (you might be surprised just what I have witnessed in the DR). At least I can’t explain them with any real conviction or passion unless I’ve experienced them, or at the very least, interviewed someone who has.
So, yes, Thoreau was right. But I learned something far more valuable during my stay here. Writing is not the most important thing in my life, although it is my passion and always will be. My friends, family and loved ones will always come before any bit of prose I can scratch together. I think somehow I lost sight of that before I arrived here, writing book after book after book at such a furious pace that even Stephen King would be envious (as if).
Call my rationale a justification for laziness. Call it a seven-month sabbatical. Call it a research project. Call it anything you want. I call it a journey for connectedness, intimacy and love.
And a successful one at that.
There is something far more important than an occupational passion. It’s called love. And I have enough of it in my life now to inspire another three novels, maybe more. And that’s something all the success or money in the world can’t buy.
Thanks for stopping by. Spread the love.