I’m not sure where to start.
This isn’t because many things have happened; nothing has happened in the past few days except the normal hum-drum routine of life. Rather, my uncertainty of where to start is because I have so many thoughts spinning through my mind, and I’m monologuing my life in my head. I call this (the act of overthinking and examining every little detail as if my life is a book of which I’m the narrator) Writer’s Overdrive. It usually happens because I’ve spent too much time in silence, I’ve been writing too much, or I’ve read something that lit the spark inside me.
Currently, it’s that last one.
Paula Hawkins is a wonderful author, in my subjective opinion. I love the poetic, almost-but-not-quite-over-the-top style she has. It’s the way I write when I get overcome, and it’s the way all of my favorite authors—Charlotte Brontë, Laini Taylor, R. A. Salvatore, etc.—write as well. I’m pulled to this sort of thing, so when I read Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, I knew I would follow her writing career through to the end.
Queue the announcement of Into the Water, and I was buzzing with excitement when my Book of the Month prescription gave me a code to get the new release as a free addition in my next box. When it came in, I was in the middle of a few other books, but I finished those as quickly as possible.
And today, finally, was the day to start Into the Water. I wanted everything to be perfect, so I made myself a cup of coffee, drew a steaming bath, dropped a sandalwood bath bomb in, and settled down to read as I soaked happily in the hot water. An hour and a half later, I had to make myself set it aside just so I could get my pruning hands and feet out of the bathtub.
My mind was on high-alert. As mentioned before, I began to monologue everything even as I drained the bathwater, slipped on a soft T-shirt emblazoned with the NASA logo and a pair of comfy yoga pants, combed my hair, and headed to my room to dive straight into a new blog post. I had to get it out of me—though, what, exactly, I needed to get out was unclear. All I knew was that Paula Hawkins’ writing had, once again, ignited the spark, the Itch, inside me.
I had to write.
But so many things came to my mind when I sat down, that I didn’t know what to say.
I wanted to talk about how life isn’t always what you wanted it to be when you were younger, and that’s okay; I wanted to talk about how you shouldn’t trust professed writers who don’t read, because anyone who has stories clawing their way out of them would want to be filled with them too; I wanted to talk about how Paula Hawkins’ is an amazing writer, but there are some people who should never read her books because of the dark subject matters; I wanted to talk about how I would have warned one of my friends not to read anything by her, if we were still friends; I wanted to talk about a character in the book who professed herself a city girl and yet felt the calm, unblemished scenery of the country town where the book’s events take place get under her skin, because I feel the same way.
Perhaps I’ll start there, then, because the mountains have ruined me.
Even now, I sleep best when my window is open to let the night sounds of the mountain and the woods that caress it into the darkness of my bedroom; I previously wrote an entire blog post about that. When I see a swathe of cool, dark forest anywhere, I feel a strange leap in my chest, a pull to walk into those woods and never return. I spent my whole childhood in the forest, in the streams there, in the trees and clearings and glades, in the places I named and drew maps for and wrote stories about. The woods changed me, made me who I am, stoked the mind I would one day sharpen to write and write and write, and I know that, no matter where I go, I will always come back to them.
Two years ago, when I visited Hong Kong, I fell in love with the city. It was gorgeous, burning up the sky, alive no matter the time of day or night, full of districts that shined with their own special quirks, traversable by anyone with a pair of strong legs and a few dollars. I wanted to stay there forever.
And yet, when I came back to Virginia to recuperate two weeks before the school semester began, I found a strange relief well up inside me. I had missed the forest, the mountains, the gentle calm of mornings in Draper. Adventure was one thing, and I know I cannot stay here, but wherever I go, I will naturally gravitate toward the trees and the mountains on the horizon.
Living in Jackson was hard sometimes for this reason. Mississippi isn’t flat like Florida or Kansas, but it’s not mountainous either. There are a few hills, but not nearly enough to stop tornadoes, and there are forests in large enough supply, but it’s not the same. The forests are too hot, too stuffy. Mountains don’t shadow the sunrise the way they do here. I found myself often missing the coolness of the pine trees in Draper, the quiet that came with a hike up the mountain. In Jackson, no matter how far you go into the woods, you can still hear the hum of life. It’s beautiful in its own way, but it was not what my soul longed for.
So even though coming back to Virginia wasn’t what I wanted, I have reveled in the calmness of its mornings, the cool forests, the mountains I dream of, the lavender-colored sky I now sit beneath as I write this on my front porch.
And this is where I come back to what I said before, about how life doesn’t always work out the way you wanted it to. I’m sure everyone knows this; I know this, but of course, it doesn’t really register in the moment of wanting. It isn’t until years later, when everything has changed for the better, and you realize how glad you are you didn’t get what you wanted back then.
That’s where I am now. And I suppose this is what I needed to get out of me—the aching in my chest, the longing, the need to understand why I don’t miss Jackson as much as I thought I would, the friends I loved and lost, and authors who set my soul alight.
I suppose Paula Hawkins’s writing just gave me a chance to find the right words.