Bouncing Down the Rabbit Holes

I’m on a first draft of the next book, in the Cotswolds, stopping every few minutes to research what my characters decide to talk about. Why did one of my tourists want to discuss byssus? I’d never heard of it. I had to stop, call it up on Google and Google Scholar and find out what third-century Roman sea silk (made from byssus) was. For those, like myself, who must know these things, it is a fabric made from the long threads of a meter-long mollusk which uses lengthy filaments to attach itself to a rock. Those filaments (byssus) are woven into a luxurious fabric. My book is set in present-day England, well, in the England of a year from now, and has nothing to do with Roman times. If the discussion of sea silk survives the editors, it will stay in the book.

Like everyone else in this country, I’m staying home. Zoom has promised to give me an instructive course this afternoon, so I will no longer be trying to figure out the icons while I’m also trying to communicate. While Zoom isn’t a substitute for direct contact and hugs, it at least gives me a chance to see my family and friends. I’m booking Zoom meetings as if they constituted my real social life. Still, I’m grateful for the contact. My dog is also a satisfying companion but doesn’t come up with stimulating ideas or great conversations. The upside of the isolation is there are few interruptions in my writing time, my garden has never looked so good, and my house is finally clean. Along with the rest of the world, I’m baking and freezing for the time when my family can finally come and visit.

I’m also buying and reading more books. Of course, I’m sure everyone is doing this. Our local bookstore takes orders and delivers or you can drive into the back lot and they will bring the books out to you. Very safe. Libraries have a download service for their e-books and audio books.

I am grateful for those on my street who go to their nursing job every day, who go to their policing job, those who work in the grocery store or to the ferry, our communication with the city. I recognize they are protecting me and the rest of us on this street who are at-home workers. I am grateful for the coordinated efforts of our municipal, provincial and federal governments who are going to help the young man three doors down who lost his summer job and still wants to continue university and now can because of support from these levels of government, for those who are home because their job is not essential and who will get a monthly subsidy for staying there. It’s an unreliable world and one that takes more ability from us to change, to do things differently and to look after each other. I’m glad I live here, but it is strange.

It seems our basic needs are reading and eating and the activities around eating such as gardening, baking and grocery shopping. I’m not sure I would have picked all those if asked what I would do in a pandemic. Reading and writing I would know to include, but baking? I don’t think so. I surprised myself.

The characters in this book have also surprised me. Besides the sea silk, they are interested in pollen, so I’m learning about that. A great book on this is The Nature of Life and Death: Every Body Leaves a Trace by Patricia Wiltshire. It also includes maggots, flies and other creepy crawlies, but it’s fascinating. I’ll probably research my way through this book until the summer. I’d rather be in the Cotswolds where I was scheduled to be at this time, but, at least, I can research, read about it and go back to my diaries of when I last visited that beautiful area of England. Next year, with luck, I’ll be there.

In the meantime, this isolation gives me time to dig down those rabbit holes and research those esoteric details that sometimes stay in the final draft.




2 Comments. Leave new

  • Bernie Arbez
    April 28, 2020 6:54 pm

    So great to get an update on what an author does in self isolation. Research sounds fascinating.