I know what some of you are saying. Drive from Orange County to northern Oregon? Were you insane at the time? Who does that?
Well, we do that. First, we took two days to get there, stopping overnight in Santa Nella. Second, having the car meant that while I was doing my thing at Left Coast Crime, Dale could wander off and do stuff because he had wheels. Stuff like visit with his brother, go to the driving range and hit some balls, watch his nephew compete at a track meet.
Third, after LCC was done and over, we could drive south a couple of hours and visit with our friends, Michael Steven Gregory and Chrissie Barnett. I've known this couple for a number of years. Michael (aka MSG) is the director of the Southern California Writers Conference, which I have attended since 2007 or so, and encourage everyone who wants to be a writer to attend. His wife, Chrissie works the behind-the-scenes administrative/technical conference stuff, so she never attends.
So while I've spent many a conference evening at the bar, discussing the art of storytelling with Michael, I don't get a lot of time to talk with him due to the nature of the where we are and what's going on. And although I've communicated with Chrissie via email, Facebook, and phone, I'd never actually met her in person. Until now.
They live in a resort near Bend, called Sunriver. Beautiful scenery. Quiet beyond measure. Nice homes, most unoccupied due to the season. The houses are either owned by private owners (some of whom live there year-round, some of whom rent them out, and some of whom use them part of the year), or by the resort company.
It's kind of a perfect place to run away and sequester yourself, retreat and work on that project, the one that keeps getting interrupted by life.
Dale and I had a great time visiting with Michael and Chrissie. They are endlessly fun. Chrissie and I had a lot in common, which is weird when you consider we grew up in different countries. I could tell you all kinds of tales about wonderful food and conversations, of the nearly-enchanted nature of their home, of wandering outside in the cold to look up at the billions of stars and trying to identify them.
But I'm not going to. For some reason, I feel protective of our visit. It's not that we discussed private matters, or that anything needs to be hidden. I guess it's just that at the conferences, I watch Michael being a very public figure. He spends his time solving problems, trying to stay ahead of any storm that might brew, and making certain that every attendee gets what they paid for. Although Chrissie is not physically at the conferences, I know how hard she is working behind the scenes. They stress over every part of the weekend.
It makes me want to treat their home as a sanctuary. Everyone needs a place where they can relax and not worry about the outside world looking in. I'm no paparazzi. What happens in Sunriver, stays in Sunriver.
|One photo, to prove we were there.|
We tried to be easy houseguests. To me, that means being as self-sufficient as possible, accepting what's offered graciously, and remembering always that the most important thing is the time spent with my hosts. Oh, and being conscious of Ben Franklin's words: "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days."
Three days later, it felt like we had to physically tear ourselves from our friends and hit the road for home. We had wanted to be on our way by 9. We pulled out of the drive around noon.
I was so happy to have that time with Chrissie and Michael. My heart was full - from laughs, insights, connection. It's a memory I can take out and look at with joy whenever I'm feeling a little low.
Thank you, friends.