“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.” Warsan Shire
I was diagnosed with interstitual lung disease in 1999. It wasn’t until 2008, however, that the most dramatic adjustments to my manner of living were required. What follows was written in April of that year. It was originally published in the now defunct California Woman.
It’s a good writing room, this room into which I have downsized to accommodate my disabled body. The room is big enough for comfort and small enough to be easy – and quick – to clean. Perfect! It’s the master suite in a sprawl of a condo on the gentle sweep of a tree-lined street in Menlo Park, California, a long way from home . . .
That march of trees down the drive, by the way – the oak and maple and campertown elm – is important. I’m enamoured of trees. Their proximity influenced my decision to rent.
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” ― Hermann Hesse, Trees: Reflections and Poems
This place has a solid, foursquare feel to it. There are no stairs inside the condo and no stairs to reach it, and this is an added attraction. The colors are soft and peaceful: creams, peaches and pistachios, maroons and deep green. My large and cherished statue of Quan Yin and two tall plants add grace to one corner. My pie crust table with a small forest of variegated greenery sits in the other. There’s a maple secretary, which is perfect for my laptop and family photographs, a shrine (or so my world-class daughter-in-law says) to those who sit at the center of my heart. I have tossed a white cloth of Brandenburg lace over my round bedside table. My stereo lives on top of the old oak dresser. There are two mismatched-bookcases, much valued by me. They are part of our family history.
Once, forty-some years ago and 3,000 miles away, I was addicted to Georgette Heyer‘s Regency romances. I think if she would have written about this room with its fine, healthy plants, good books, good music, and hodgepodge of furniture, she might have described it as “shabby genteel”. That’s okay by me. I’ve got no one to impress and it serves my body, my spirit and my latter-day ambitions well.
I decided on a double-bed. It offers ample enough room to lay out books, pens and colored pencils, paper and even my laptop. My darling landlady’s two yellow-eyed black cats are also ample and like to hop on the bed for a visit. Executives both, they supervise and comment petulantly when I ignore their direction. I’ve had many kitty companions. My last was Pywacket. I’ve learned over time that cats, like moonlight, inspire the muse. They are very welcome in here.
There’s a washer and dryer inside the condo, so I don’t have to try to lug laundry to a garage or laundry room and back. The kitchen isn’t quite as bright as I’d like, but it’s clean – scrupulous – in granite and stainless steel. I enjoy cooking almost as much as writing. It’s an endeavor that feeds my soul as well as my body, though I admit I miss having the energy and opportunity to cook for others.
I’m all moved in and settled. If you peeked in at me, you’d think me a housefrau, not a bad thing, running the laundry while preparing dinner: creamy yogurt, enchanted broccoli with olive oil, garlic, and lemon, and cheery orange carrot-coins with fried onions and dill. I prepared a risotto with rose brown rice, shallots, and shiitake mushrooms. Later, a mug of honeyed Citrus Chamomile for a restful night of writing and sleep.
From this stillness, this cleanliness, this simplicity, I will write, cook and love my people with reckless abandon. For the moment, there is safe harbor. Life is good and tomorrow is a new day.
© 2008 Jamie Dedes