One of the things I have missed in the pandemic is getting new inputs and having new experiences. These lead to serendipities in my writing (problems solved and new directions taken) and keep me engaged and energized.
A few months ago, just emerging from our isolation, my daughter and I went to a harbor-side restaurant in Marina Del Ray. It had outside seating, so it seemed safe enough. As we engaged in the cranky, “Well, I don’t know exactly where the place is” conversation that comes from finding one particular stop in a rat’s maze of buildings, we heard the sound of sea lions and went exploring, only to find five or six of them lounging on a dock, jumping in and out of the water, splashing and barking at each other, walking along on their flippers.
Sea lions are my daughter’s favorite marine animal but she’s never seen them outside of a zoo. We watched their antics under white fairy lights someone had strung along the walkway and later, after dinner, we watched them settle down to sleep, like a pile of dogs. One sentry kept alert and watched us, barking if we got too close.
Later we said we would go back and we have but it is always the stumbling-upon-an-experience-I-didn’t-expect that I treasure most about being in the world. That unexpected evening with the sea lions is the kind of thing I’ll remember long after all of the manufactured whale-watching tours have blurred together.
I think it is encountering the experience I didn’t expect that I love most about reading. Of course I adore the old standbys – I re-read Mary Stewart and Jim Butcher regularly – but it is the book that I didn’t expect that keeps me coming back, again and again, trying to find the next book that will grab me with its unexpected pleasures.