Monday 13 December 2010


I can’t sleep again. This time, though, it’s different. I fall into bed at about 1am and crash, only to wake up at 2.30am with my brain fizzing. It’s like my body and mind are recalibrating themselves. I can’t eat either: just don’t feel like it. All in all, I really do think I’m going ever so slightly crazy.

I’ve given up the booze again. I do it periodically. It’s not like I drink a huge amount anyhow. I stopped drinking wine quite some time back so a stray bottle the other night was a bit of a shock to the senses.

‘But all writers drink,’ said a friend. ‘Or take drugs.’

It reminded me of my first attempt at writing a novel, back in my early twenties when I went to live in the USA. My brother gave me a bottle of a gin and a bag of dope. ‘Disorder the senses,’ he said.

Mine were disordered enough already – by the crashing waves right outside the house; by playing Bach so loud it echoed around my ribs; and by doing way too much esoteric wandering. I could see the auras of trees, of the dogs running after my bicycle – and that was all before I touched a drop of gin.

The book, needless to say, was absolute garbage. But I had the best time. Did some courses in neurolinguistics; pondered teaching ESL; gave up the idea. Spent a lot of time in art galleries and museums; got a serious gym habit; met some great people; never did get much of a tan. 

Travelled straight across the US from Cape Ann, driving west for three days and nights solid, chasing electric storms on trans-state highways. Three of us took it in turns to drive; took it in turns to sleep; took it in turns to keep the one driving awake. Had a blow-out at 80mph, and discovered that time really does slow when adrenalin kicks in. Got pulled over for cat and mouse racing with a Trans-Am. Passed by cities in the night. Diverted to the Badlands because, shit, you have to see the Badlands.  When we reached the coast in Washington state, we kicked off our shoes and ran down to the beach, sat staring in wonder at the sparkling sea – marvelling that it was a different ocean.

We camped in redwood forests and rode with cowboys in the panhandle of Texas; ate wholemeal muffins in hippy cafes in Northern California and sushi in sterile restaurants in LA. My soul shrank from Vegas, so much that I couldn’t leave the motel room. But it soared in San Fran, smiling at sea otters, laughing and swapping dresses with drag queens. Had the biggest fight ever at the Grand Canyon. Gazed at landscapes so large, the horizon curved. Felt tiny, a speck on a small planet spinning in a vast universe which was spinning in infinity.  Felt the dry air of the desert blow over my skin and soothe my soul.

God, I miss the States. God, I miss that freedom.

But, if one can’t travel outwardly, one can still travel inwardly. And I’m plunging down astral pathways, frantically searching. I can see something ahead of me and it's just ever so slightly out of reach.  I run and run and see a glimmer as it chases round a corner.  It’s a multi-dimensional maze, a crazy labyrinth. It’s like life’s been on hold for years and now I’m suddenly waking up.

I know that sounds crazy; it probably is crazy. It’s scary as hell but it feels horribly right. Even the not sleeping bit. I’m writing this at 4.30am. I’ve been awake for two hours. I’ve read a book already and my eyes are red sore. I’m shaking, as if all my cells were being rearranged, being put back into the right order. And I have no idea what happens next.

Weirdly, it feels good.


Anonymous said...

It sounds good, too. Those journeys are important to our well-being, will help you to discover what lies ahead in the next chapter of your life. Keep going. Waking up at all hours is perhaps something your brain needs to do; like having a rest from a continuous imagination.

CJ xx

Cait O'Connor said...

Sounds as if you have a deep creative well about to burst Jane which is all good.
I love your header pic by the way, it is so uplifting.

F said...

My soul embraces Vegas. It's hedonism unfettered.

Exmoorjane said...

Crystal: hey, stranger! Yeah, I think these journeys are important. Hope you's well. :)

Cait: I think/hope you're right, Cait... and glad you like the pic - I rather love it (though someone said recently they thought those were all my children!!!!)

Frankie: aaghhhh, no, no no. We'll have to agree to differ. It made me feel physically sick!

Anonymous said...

An account to stir the senses, re-awake wanderlust, ponder the meaning of life. All in one short passage. If this is what insomnia brings to your party - stay with it. I'll even stay awake and log on every half hour in case you've posted your ramblings.
My favourite blogger, ramble on.

Milla said...

the Waking Up sounds good, enviably good. As does New Best Friend, Anonymous!
2011 will be your year, Janey!

Humdrum Mum said...

Tell you what I really think? Ok I love the description of your trip. I want to have done it too! So well written -HMx

Ps word verification = legless !!!

Dragonfly Dreams said...

Oh Jane, what an absolutely lyrical way to describe the U.S. - I fell in love with it all over again and I live here! I been to most of the places you described, but I did not see it through your eyes! Thank you for an alternate view.

I agree with Cait - the dam is about to burst and your creativity will be unleashed! Hurray!

Rob-bear said...

Jane, I hate to break this to you, but you're sounding very "Bear-brained." That's how we Bears get when we're not hibernating when we should be. (This I know from sad experience.)

Find yourself a relatively cool, dark space (under your bed if necessary), get cumfy in there (blanket, pillow, whatever) and don't come out until March. That should help.

You can trust the ol' Bear on this one.

Frances said...

Good evening from New York, Jane.

I realize now that you've seen much more of the States than I have. I cannot imagine wanting to drive across this country, or I guess I would have driven across way back when.

I love your notion of this country being free, while I love the notion of the British countryside.
Truly hope that your wondrous writing will catch hold with a publisher very soon. Also hope that I might be able to have a train ride soon. I once lived in a house with a bunch of film students and one of them said he got a screen play from every train trip he took.


Michele Brenton aka banana_the_poet said...

I've never been to America and now I sort of don't want to - because it feels like it would only be any fun if I went with you XX

Esther Montgomery said...

There's something wrong with the air at present. I keep waking in the night and writing (and hanging out the washing) in all sorts of silent and inappropriate hours.

That you choose this moment to describe your hair-raising, adrenaline charged trip suggests that, if it weren't for your family, you'd up-and-off again. At least you did it once. I often feel I've wasted my life on earth by seeing so little of it.

So here's some fellow-feeling-solidarity. Not that that's much use!


The bike shed said...

I think sometimes we have phases - sleeplessness, anxiety, anticipation, depression, obsession - that are bit like going to the gym. Tough at first, then something kicks in and you can (sometimes) enjoy it - but always you feel stronger afterwards.

Enjoy through take care - but then I guess you know that

Anonymous said...

Loved this piece and it answered a mental question I had: sometimes your writing has a whiff of Amrican about it and now I know why! I am English and have lived here a long time and enjoy reading your postings.

Iota said...

Ah, an American connection! I loved reading what you write about the place in this post. Yes, the sheer size and space of it. The Brits are (sadly) often a bit snooty about America, but wow, does it have a lot to offer!