I am writing to you, finally, from the studio out back of my house. This studio is not connected to anything; it is, in fact, a shed, into which I have placed a desk, a bed, a rocking chair and a large pile of incomplete writing and textile projects. It is not a dingy shed, so don’t feel sorry for me. My workspace is on the second floor of a two-story shed, and I have a green floor that matches the trees around me. I have a door with a window that looks out into the forest, and another window in the front through which (if I stand up) I can see the river. I have some work to do, it seems, and following the admonitions of Virginia Woolf, I have created for myself a room of my own.
On the wall in my living room, I have written the words “Life is practice”, just in case I lose sight of the fact that I have made the choices that got me to this place. Taking care of my children is part of my practice in the same ways that meditation, yoga, and writing are practice. To reinforce this idea, we have a small shelf of sacred objects on the east wall of the living room, which includes a Buddha, a donation/alms container, some elements of nature, and directly below, the toys. Playing with my children is part of the whole thing. However, like many, many women I know, I have spent years of my life fitting my creative and intellectual work into the gaps left over after everybody around me was fed, clothed, chauffeured, entertained, and snuggled… and the bills were paid, and the house was moderately clean, and… oh, look! It’s 11 pm and I’m starting the rest of my work. I did all the reading and writing for the courses for two university degrees that way. I found myself staying up late the other night just to get to read a novel. And I’ve had to put away some of the harder papers I’ve tried to read until some mythical time in the future when I could grab a larger block of time to really work with them. I’ve come to think of it as living an interstitial life. (I know interstitial as a word from crystallography. The main atoms in a structure form a grid, and sometimes the gaps between them are large enough for smaller atoms to fit in the spaces. These spaces are called interstitial sites.)
The mythical time in the future is now. For the last year, I have been working sporadically on a trio of books (largely unrelated to one another), a stack of article ideas, and (occasionally) the thesis that is the completing component of an M.Ed. However, I have been doing so in the gaps remaining after all the mundane stuff is “done”… and as we all know, the mundane stuff is never done. In fact, truth be told, I use the mundane stuff to avoid doing the work, or at least to avoid finishing it so that it could be exposed to the light of day. I think, I meditate, I study, I conceptualize, I even write. What I don’t do is publish.
Not having solid blocks of uninterrupted time has been a really good excuse. I had to share the computer and for nearly eleven years, I have rarely gotten to work for longer than five minutes between calls of “Muuuuuummmmmy!!!” Now, however, I have a 200 watt inverter on my desk, a laptop of my own, and a studio that is far enough from the house that I can’t even hear the kids if they are screaming. There are other adults in my home. They are capable, and willing to give me the space and time. In fact they push me out the door, and say, “Don’t come back until you are done.” I have no more excuses. I only have fears. Fear of offending, fear of being wrong, fear of being ostentatious, ego-laden, or vain. Fear of cutting off my means of support through the inability to erase traces of my writing, which, when I examine it, is really about being unable to erase traces of my self. I’m sure that there is a whole other post on that.
Which leads me to solar power. Last summer we cleaned out this space. I decided that it was too dark, and I wanted to paint the floor before I put any furniture into the room. It would make it easier to clean the floor. It took me the rest of the summer to be satisfied with the room and put something into it. Note, no writing took place. By then, it was freaking cold up here. I did come up of an evening, but it was difficult to get my candles lit (because, too cold), my hands were cold, and I had to wear winter clothes and wrap myself in blankets. It was more of a garret than a studio, which inspired romantic fantasies, but turned out to be rather unpleasant. Also, the stairs up to the door collapsed, so I was using a ladder to get in and out for about nine months. This spring, in an attempt to get me motivated, I was given stairs as a birthday present. I also purchased a bale of insulation which is to be installed before the fall, and when the solar panels went on sale, I snagged a set. For, you see, what a writer needs, in addition to a room of her own, is a computer with an internet connection that she doesn’t have to wrest from the hands of a gamer. So allow me to introduce you to the shiny new (red!) laptop, and the solar panels that will power the publication of some of the boxes of writing I have produced in the last twenty years:
Now I really have no excuses.