Monday, December 6, 2010

A room of one's own: A meme from The Vermont Gardener

George Africa wrote an elegant and thoughtful post about writing on Saturday on his blog, The Vermont Gardener. Full disclaimer: he says some nice things about me, but that's not why I found the post to be enchanting. He creates a wonderful sense of being tucked away in a storm and thinking about space, and writing, and winter. I can't begin to do it justice by describing it more than that, so I suggest you go on over there and read it for yourself.

I will say that I especially liked the line about trout.

In his gentle way, George has thrown out a question that makes a nice meme for these cold winter days. He wants to know what your writing space is like. Since, based on what I'm reading on Twitter/FB/Blogs from all the rest of you, I'm guessing that many of us seem to be tucked up ourselves, it might be nice to give some thought to that space in which we are writing. So here goes:

My upstairs study is a wreck. In the summer it gets too hot to write up there, so I move downstairs. What happens when I do this is that the study becomes a place that I throw everything to hide it when company comes over. (You know what I'm talking about--don't pretend that you don't.) By and by, it gets so messy that I know it will take an entire day to make it fit again for habitation. So I'm writing this in the front living room, which, in matters of housekeeping, is a good thing.

I can't work in a messy space. Just can't. So while I'm here in the living room, things tend to stay picked up--well, as picked up as they can be when one is married to someone addicted to newspapers/magazines/books/xeroxed articles. Maybe I should say that my side of the room stays picked up. In any case, it is reasonably decent at the moment.

We got new furniture last week. It was time, since the old furniture was, well, old. Springs were sprung. Seat cushions were showing tufts of white cotton batting. Arm rests had been rubbed raw. I spent some time trying to find an upholsterer, and finally did get one to come out and give me an estimate. Unfortunately, to recover the sofa alone would have been twice what I eventually spent on a new one. That says something about living in a disposable world, I know, but I had to go with what I could afford.

I console myself knowing that old furniture went to a good home, though, and to people who are willing to get it recovered. It fits their home nicely, since they have a number of pieces from the arts and crafts period already.

I like the new stuff. It is nice to sit in a chair that isn't leaning. It is nice to have things that match. It is nice, I keep telling my husband, to stop living as if we are still grad students.

I was feeling pretty good about our own day-cor until I went on the neighborhood holiday home tour on Saturday. There, in those beautiful houses, were the leather-and-tapestry sofas I had decided were out of my price range. There were the big leather chairs, with the big leather ottomans. There were the new kitchen remodels, with the granite counter tops and big islands. There were the plush, warm window treatments.

When I came back to my house, my new furniture looked a bit like the plain girl at the dance. Which is why I don't normally go on these holiday home tours...

Why is it not possible to see and admire something beautiful, like another person's gorgeous home, without noting the shortcomings in one's own life?

Anyway, I like it here, this morning, in my plain Jane room. There is a Christmas tree, all lit up and sparkly. A garland drapes the mantle, and two woolen stockings hang there, as well. A quilt is spread over the new sofa so that the shed-prone cat feels welcome to share in our bounty. A single lamp is lit; most of the light streams in through three floor-to-ceiling windows. The window treatments are minimal, and there are no rugs on the wood floors, since two of our rescue dogs--who continue to excuse their persistent inability to be fully house-trained by claiming post-traumatic stress disorder--would pee on them.

They are in the back room as I write this, but Harold, the other rescue dog, lies behind me, snoring gently. Walu is away teaching class, but his presence can be felt in the books and papers that lie scattered about.

It doesn't matter if it isn't spectacular. It's a home.


  1. Oh yes! I love the idea of my writing room, but I hate to be up there alone, so downstairs comes laptop, camera, "research material," cords and mouse. All on the kitchen table, which is also the dining table, which sits right inside the front door. Then company comes over and it all gets shoveled upstairs, and I can't work, and don't blog for a while. To keep the peace (and get to eat at the table most nights), I'm trying to keep it upstairs. But part of home is being around my people and the snoring dog, who doesn't like it up there much...A good meme. Enjoy your new furniture and all the comforts of your own space.

  2. Lynn--It is easier to write among the hubbub, I think.

  3. I for one hate leather and tapestry couches, and for what it's worth, your home is the picture of what I want our home to look/feel like one day when we are done with grad school/residency

  4. Thanks, Sarai. :-) You and your family are in my thoughts these days.

  5. Susan, Oh goodie~I like this meme and have been ruminating on this very subject for awhile. I've been in many homes with new kitchens and over decorated rooms~Sometimes they are just too cold and TV perfect! I like my home and visitors never fail to say~it's warm and inviting. That's good enough for me! gail

  6. Gail--I'm with you there on the perfect homes. These on the holiday home tour, though, were truly spectacular. My hat is off to the homeowners. I still like mine, though. :-)

    Eileen--Time for a new post from you about med school?

  7. I have always dreamed of a study. A room where I can write and pause and reach across to the bookshelve for the refrence book to look up something I need. You remeber refrence books those books that were of use before Google. But that is not to be.

    My writing space is my laptop sitting ontop of a TV tray leaned up against me while I am sitting on the couch.

    Space is a preminum in our house as we have people coming and going unfortunatley a regular basis. So to claim a room for writing is a luxury. But maybe one day.


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