Recently I read a blog by a writer who was in the course of a book tour. It brought to mind a mini-tour I'm about to make, and a few earlier ones, which range from the hilarious to the humiliating, and that the only menu item you can order with any confidence in all of the 50 states is ribs.
It also reminded me of how I am infinitely happier waking up in my own bed. Writers in general are nesting wildlife, and as one of them, the most edifying book tour I can think of is the long series of nests that, over the years, I have built for the silent performance of my task. As I sit in this kind of crow's nest that I've set up in the Berkeley hills, glancing now and then at the wall of rain coming in from the bay, I think back on 10 or so earlier nesting attempts. Perhaps the most exotic is on Maui: a large room, windowed and screened on three sides, where I sometimes sit at an oak desk, writing away to the tune of screeching francolins, eloquent sparrows, confiding doves, the occasional thump of a falling avocado, and the more or less constant ground bass of gas-powered leaf-blowers from the neighbors' yards.
But two other writer's nests, though less exotic, are even more vivid in memory. There is the academic jungle I set up in my University of Oregon office when I was doing research for a long article. Library books were stacked to the ceiling on all sides, and long banners of computer tractor-feed paper (my notes) hung from the ceiling, all but hiding me from any visitor, colleague, or student. Fortunately I was almost finished with the job when I met my Waterloo, as a bank of weighty tomes crashed down on me, complete with whirling festoons of tractor-feed, and I had to dig myself out of my own research.
Finally, there was my labor of love, a book about human time that I began writing in a comfortable house in Spain. Forced back to the States by an emergency, we rented a small place in Carmel Valley, California, where my only refuge was a 4' by 6' cubbyhole that, except for its one window, might have served as a closet. But there was room for a chair and a table. On this table I set down notebooks and pen. Day after day, I sat in this cubicle, letting fancy roam. A virtual prisoner, I never wished for more space. My book had become my house.