Monte Rio, California

I just returned from ten days in Monte Rio, California, for our family summer vacation.  Monte Rio is a small town (population 1,150) located next to Guerneville, near the Napa Valley.  In years past we’d spend a couple of nights away because that  was all we could afford.  Then last year we discovered that our friend’s mother rents out her house on the Russian River in Monte Rio, for an extraordinarily low price.  We grabbed the opportunity and stayed there in 2010 for seven days.  This year we rented it for ten days. What’s confusing to me is this:  Why, just when you’re starting to relax and getting that “ahhh” feeling, is the vacation over?  Now I’m wondering whether we’ll have to take a month off to finally release our minds and bodies of the daily stressors we bring with us.

Is living in suburbia causing this stress?  Should we move to a rural area with limited internet access and fewer job opportunities to eradicate the constant BUZZ infiltrating our lives every minute of every day?  I don’t know the answer, but it’s a question that’s really bothering me…causing me more stress.

I’d wake up every morning in Monte Rio and listen to the birds singing in the trees outside the array of windows facing the backyard, no sounds of cars or motorcycles drowned out nature’s cacophony.  A thick blanket of fog weaved through the wall of trees surrounding the back deck.  I’d tip-toe downstairs, my invisible footsteps muffled in the thick carpet covering the stairs, pull aside the sliding glass door leading to the back deck, and step outside into the cool 60 degree morning. Between the trees rimming the yard, not more than forty feet away, the very lazy Russian River flowed by, its surface smattered with tiny sparkles from the morning rays of the sun.

One morning I was in the kayak in the middle of the river, just staring at the water ahead of me, and realized the scenery on the river’s surface mirrored exactly the surrounding habitat I’d been enjoying while paddling down the river.  I’d seen pictures like that but had never experienced it before.  It was breathtaking.

Is it possible to feel this same relaxation back at home?  Is it possible to recapture that “ahhh” feeling while sitting on the couch with my laptop?  I think if I was in Monte Rio right now I wouldn’t be experiencing the writer’s block that has stood like a wall in front of my face each time I sit down to write my next book.  So, should I surround my work area with pictures of the Russian River? Frankly, I don’t think that’s gonna cut it.  Is it possible to regain that peace at home?  Suggestions anyone?

Posted on August 26, 2011, in Blog Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Would be nice, Patricia, but my vacation is usually a distant memory after my first hour of work!

    We did a bicycle tour last year that went right through that area – you’re right – it’s lovely!

  2. I know what you mean, Laura. Already I’m in the midst of taxiing children to work and school and I look at the Monte Rio pictures and sigh….

  3. Patti,
    Your vacation sounds wonderful! I’m so jealous. For years, my husband and I packed up the two kids and took a two week vacation on a very small–and very quiet–barrier island off the North Carolina coast. My husband insisted on two weeks because it took him at least ten days to wind down from the stress of work. Sadly, as the kids got older, vacations have become shorter and fewer. Everyone in the house is always so busy with their own activities that scheduling time away as a family has become impossible. We are hoping to get to our beach retreat for Labor Day, but, alas, Irene may foil our efforts. Praying that the damage isn’t too bad.

    • Oh, Tracy, an island off the North Carolina coast sounds so incredibly relaxing. I’ve been reading books for years set in that area. I’m not sure whether the author is Susan Wiggs but when a book is set in that venue, I usually purchase it! I don’t know whether I’ll ever get there, but it’s in my plan for “some day”. I know what you mean about getting the whole family together for an extended period of time. My daughter’s only 12 but my son is 17 and next summer when he’s 18 he may just tell us to forget about it and he’s not going. That will be a very sad day for me but I understand that kids’ lives are busier than mine was at that age. I wish they both would slow down on all the electronic gadgets and learn to relax and just “be”.

  4. Patti, I do think living in suburbia can make you feel worn out. Every thing–and I do mean every single thing–our neighbors do effect us.

    If they’re having company or service done, I’m likely blocked in and will have to ask them to move so I can get out of my driveway. If they let their house go into disrepair, it effects my home values. If they have a loud party, I get to listen to it. If they need a favor, I’m only 20 feet away–day or night.

    Added to that, because there are so many houses, door-to-door solicitors treat this place like Disneyland.

    I could go on, but it’s just endless. This neighborhood does add to my stress level. I notice I’m a lot less harried and scattered when I’m away from here. Yes, I do want to move.

    I unplug and get my focus back through meditation and listening to peaceful music. I also have my writing office set up at the back of the house. I often don’t answer the doorbell.

  5. I especially love your last line. I haven’t answered my doorbell in years. Unless I’m expecting a package from UPS or something I’m in the back of the house looking out into the yard and the sky and writing, and I’m busy! This is my job. And although I’m not getting paid for it, this is what I have decided to do for work and in order to ever reap monetary benefits for it, I have to be serious. My sister works in her home in antique furniture restoration and repair and it can be almost impossible to get anything done because people feel that she’s at home, therefore she can talk to them endlessly as the clock is ticking away and she’s getting no work done! I can relate to the neighbors. When I realize that I can hear my neighbor blowing his nose next door, that’s when I believe I should move out of here. I love this small city and my house, but…. I think about it sometimes – moving, that is.

  6. What a great vacation Patti!! I personally have found that I CAN’T write in beautiful places. I am a bit ADD so I spend more time watching the scenery, the animals, letting the sound and view of moving water take my mind with it. Can’t even write in my backyard, which is most definitely nothing exciting or particularly pretty. But there are alot of birds and squirrels and well…there I go.

    My current “office” is on a twin bed with a white board at one end. Nothing on the walls. It’s boring. Makes me stay in my characters’ world!! 🙂

    • Well I can sure understand that, Sharla. It’s hard not to space out, just enjoying the beauty of your surroundings. But then when would the work get done, right? What’s funny is that I wrote my first 3 books in total chaos – while the kids interrupted me, the t.v. was blasting, the phone ringing, whatever, I just wrote through it. Now, I don’t like that. I am hoping that when they return to school next week, I’ll be able to get down to work AGAIN.

  7. Patti, I love your description of the area and it sounds like the perfect place to reinspire your muse!

    We live on a small acreage so there’s some distance from neighbours and the rest of the outside world. And yet it’s impossible to find quiet when there is a demanding job, demanding family, demanding housework and those other million of little things that demand our attention. One needs the ability to shut it all off without the guilt of knowing that you’re ignoring all of the important things — or people — in your life. I think it takes practice to achieve this and usually the guilt steps in long before the ability to ignore becomes habit.

    We’ve found that we don’t relax until the third week of vacation, a feat we’ve only accomplished twice in our marrried life. Everyone should be entitled to a three week holiday TWICE a year. Yeah, I know, impossible, but hey, a girl can dream. 🙂

    • Boy, do you have the perfect idea for American life – a three week vacation twice a year. You know, I feel that people would be happier and less stressed out if they were allowed to take that much time off. But life is centered around work, not play. And, frankly, I think we’ve got it out of balance.

  8. Wow. Beautiful and stress-free. Makes me feel like I need a vacation!

    • I want another vacation, especially coming back to arguing with my son about his senior schedule which includes two advanced placement classes which he does NOT want to take, since he wants to have a fun senior year! I have little sympathy for him since I went to a private Catholic high school which was hard. But my writing time is coming up next week when they return to school and I am SO looking forward to that!

  9. Looks lovely! I find it interesting that my two young daughters dream of living “out in the country away from the commotion”. Interesting how it goes full circle?
    Thanks for letting us spend a few minutes on your vacation with you!

    • Amy, you didn’t mention how old your daughters are, but I am hoping in my heart that one day my children will realize the usefulness of taking down time and relaxing away from the “commotion” you mentioned. I know that 12 and 17 are still young for that to happen. My dream….

  10. Travel is good for the soul so and never long enough. I loved this post and the pictures. Thanks, Patti.

    Relax and settle back in. Your mo-jo will soon return 🙂

  11. Patti,
    Welcome back!

    My husband and I were in a real funk a few years ago returning home from a vacation at a dude ranch in Colorado. A few years later, we purchased a small place in the area and try to spend time there every summer. At first our plan was to spend the whole summer there and the most we’ve ever done is two weeks. I’m not complaining, but it just goes to show how life gets in the way. We’re aiming for three weeks next summer, so we’ll see how things go.

    Don’t fret the writer’s block. Try reading a craft book–that always works for me!

    • Good advice, Christy. I don’t have enough craft books, but I DO have an entire class that I missed in July that they just sent me all the material in an e-mail. THAT would help out. Thanks so much for the suggestion. Good idea.

  12. Donna Velleman

    Monte Rio looks beautiful Patti.

    Sorry can’t give you any advice. I haven’t been on a real vacation since I was twenty-one and went cross country in ’76. But I have been down to visit my mom a couple of times in N.C. within the last several years. Her back porch looks out onto Jarrett Bay and it is so beautiful and quiet. That’s where they find me parked during any free time I have. Unfortunately any unwinding that occurs is blown away by the 14 hour trip back home.

    Guess I better get crackin’ on writing that blockbuster so I can afford avacation. 🙂

    • How cool that your mom is at least visit-able. My mom died in 2008 and she lived only about 5 minutes from our home. I so would like to be able to share with her about my writing experience. I’m going to Google Jarrett Bay and take a peek at it. I’d love to one day see North Carolina since some of my favorite books are set in that area. Thanks for stopping by, Donna.

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