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Notes From Chicago

As of a few hours ago I’m in Chicago. Perched on the 12th floor of my downtown hotel room. A bland and muted news program flickers on the television set, a little pile of M&Ms from the minibar sits next to me on the desk, and there is a generally stunning view outside the window. I’m meeting a handful of my best Chicago girlfriends for dinner soon, and I can’t help leaning back in my chair right now to marvel at how strange it is to be back in this city.

Greg and Vera and I left Chicago almost exactly 8 months ago, a period of time now long enough to feel significant. I realize now that eight months is long enough to have cinched off my time here, perfectly encasing those four years into something solid and closed, a finished product. I can now see my life in Chicago as a complete and final thing with a discernible beginning, middle and end. When I was here in August for a friend’s wedding, we’d only been in LA for two months, and our life here in Chicago didn’t feel nearly as complete or closed. It must mean something that my life in Los Angeles never quite felt over. Each time I visited during the four years I was here in the Midwest, I felt as though I was returning home, even though I no longer lived there.

I’m here this week for the AWP Conference and then to do a couple of readings. On Thursday afternoon I’m going to be speaking on a panel called What About Blog, about how blogging can propel your writing career. Then on Thursday night I’ll be reading and signing at Women & Children First in Andersonville. On Friday I’ll be reading and signing at the Book Stall in Winnetka. Then it’s off to Boston and a reading and signing at the Brookline Booksmith.

I’m only here in Chicago for two days before Greg & Vera join me for the rest of the trip. But for now, they’re home in sunny California and I’m here in this quiet hotel room as evening begins to press itself against the windows. I had a moment today on the airplane when I realized that this will likely be the last time I’m alone for quite a while. After this week only San Francisco is left on the book tour and Greg and Vera will be with me again then.

I’m tired right now, so tired. I didn’t sleep at all last night, tossing and turning and checking the clock and thinking of a dozen things to remind Greg of as he cares for Vera, on his own over the next couple of days. I’m not sure how much I’ve written about it, but I have this utterly fantastic love/hate relationship with traveling.

I will always travel. It’s in my bones. To pack up and head out into the world is something that simply wells up inside of me and takes over. However, over and over, it never ceases to bring on torrents of anxiety. I begin to tense up in the days leading up to a trip, worrying about the effects of wrenching myself out of my little life. I worry about leaving the people I love, I worry about plane crashes, I sleep restlessly and my thoughts dart to superstitious places. Nontheless, I pack my bags and I go. I always go.

Once I’m in the air, once I’m at my destination, I have nothing but gratitude. I can suddenly breathe again, and not just because I’ve arrived and am safe, but because I’ve done it — I’ve wrenched myself out of my daily life, and for that reason alone, can breathe again. I’ve never been able to pinpoint exactly what stirs up my need to travel, nor what causes my extreme apprehension of it. I know that the travel bug came at birth and the anxiety around it began with my mother’s death, ebbing and flowing ever since. There was a time in my late twenties when the anxiety all but disappeared. But then I met Greg and then I became a mother and suddenly I had so much to lose all over again.

But today I made it once more, out into the world. For long hours on the plane I simply listened to the same songs on repeat, and stared out into the clouds, thinking and not thinking about what comes next.

Whatever it is, I’m ready.

Here are a couple of cool radio interviews from the last week, if you’re interested:

Australian Podcast Interview, Stuart Beaton’s Small Picture Podcasts

Book Selection Radio Interview, CBS Seattle

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Want to buy my book? Do so at any of the above!



  1. Our entire family will be on a plane together tomorrow, Claire. I can’t help but think about the crash scenario, especially because of the grandbaby being with us too. By default, of course, we personally would not end up distraught should the worst occur. But that little life we carry with us now? So unutterably precious. It has thrilled me this vacation to watch her loving parents co-parent so seamlessly. Since her mom still travels quite a bit for work, I have seen first-hand how well-cared-for that baby is in her absence. So anyway, here’s the plan — how about neither your sweet family nor ours experience any mishaps between now and when you make it safely to the SF leg of your book tour, OK? I’m counting the days ’til that, as much as I have been counting the ones ’til we get home. Safe travels one and all!

    Comment by Carroll on February 28, 2012 at 11:53 pm

  2. I just realized that you posted a comment on my little blog – wow! Thank you! I’m honored! Glad you are doing well with all of the traveling to and fro. Remember to enjoy the moments – this is a PRECIOUS time in your life.


    Comment by beth davis on March 1, 2012 at 7:12 am

  3. You’re welcome, Beth! Thank YOU!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on March 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm

  4. Can’t wait to see you in Palo Alto, Carroll! xoox

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on March 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm

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