Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Work Spaces, Inside and Out... Shapeshifting ... Turning A Corner...

"Dillard wrote the second half of her Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim At Tinker Creek in a second-floor, cinder-block room with a window that overlooked a tar-and-gravel-roof and parking lot. "Appealing workplaces are to be avoided," she maintains. "One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark." In this writer's cell she kept her fielder's mitt (for afternoon softball games), some books, a bag of chocolate-covered peanuts, two or three quotes taped on index cards, a dozen different-colored pens, some piles of big index cards, and her messy yellow legal pads. One day she shut the window blinds and never opened them again.

More recently she set up shop in a tent in the yard of her Cape Cod house."

~ On Annie Dillard, from Journeys of Simplicity, by Philip Harnden ~

The pen you see above is my real fountain pen. It is a red Waterman
Phileas Fogg and I've had several over the years. My favorite pen is the pen I call "Big Mama," and she's a huge Mont Blanc I've had for decades now. She was my dream pen and I finally bought her at half price. She stays at home because she has to be filled from a bottle and can be messy, and she feels safer at home. Like I do. I have lost a Phileas or two because I have a penchant for writing in café's and used to write nearly daily in one. My favorite way to write is with an old fashioned quill pen and I have many that I have collected over the years and hordes of bottles of ink. I don't have a fielder's mitt, but I do have lots of journals and my favorite notebooks, Moleskines...

I like the old fashioned caf
é writer's way of doing things. Hemingway's A Moveable Feast is one of my favorite of the thousands of books I've read in my nearly 54 years, and it was he that taught me how to eat oysters and lose myself in a notebook in a café. Today I still write with fountain pens in notebooks, but I have fallen the way of the rest of the world and my iMac is here on my desk, and my new "Plum Blossom" Dell notebook computer is here beside me, ready to take into a café and write, or write in a chair with a pug half on it and half on me. Or a parrot on my shoulder. Annie Dillard didn't have any of those, but I don't have chocolate covered peanuts either. We all find our own way to write.

I am not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, and like to work in my little cottage which is very colorful, what with rooms in every shade imaginable, countless books everywhere, fiber and fiber work projects, bright, colorful and homey feeling, old vintage quilts, and yes, 6 parrots, four dogs, 2 beta fish, and a partridge in a pear tree. Actually right now they are all asleep, the room is quiet and dark, just a little desk lamp on here at the computer, and I love this time of night. It is 9:25 p.m. and I am settling in for a night of reading, writing, and fiber art. Currently I am finishing the Spirit Bowl I showed you in the last entry, and I am also making a very large, long serpent for my 4 year old grandson for his May 1 birthday, made on a giant and very beautiful serpent spool-knitter made especially for me by my dear friend Noreen Crone-Findlay who makes all of my spoolknitters, crochet hooks, cord makers and more. You will see pictures of it in the next entry which I will be getting up in the next couple of days. It is made entirely of recycled clothes and scarves from my wardrobe that are wearing out but bright and colorful, even very worn pashmina shawls cut in long strips! It will be a "Raggedy Ann" kind of serpent and I am loving him already.

No, I could not work in a cinder-block room, bare and grey, nor in a tent in the back yard. I have been musing about how our work environment affects us as writers, how it shapes the work, both inside our bodies where the imagination starts to bubble up to the top turning from images and vague prose into words on a page. I am a great lover of Dillard's work and have pretty well all of her books, but I think our writing reflects our chosen writing spaces. I love hers, and mine feels comfortable to me.

I have been thinking a lot about this because I am working on a book long in the works, after 30 years of writing for magazines and newspapers, and having written a number of books that didn't sell, mostly novels, sigh, it seems that non-fiction is more my fort
é, and having been asked by many to write about life at Dragonfly Cottage and how it evolved, as well as my life as a writer and a fiber artist, living in a little cottage filled with animals, surrounded by gardens, and pretty well cut off from the world, I have turned back to my serious writing after a long hiatus. I have been thinking a lot lately about why it has taken me so long to begin to write seriously again, and I believe I know the answer.

In 1999 I left a 25 year marriage and was separated for 6 years before the divorce. I had been a stay-at-home mom, homebirthing, homeschooling, breastfeeding forever, you get the picture, and we were and still are a very close family. My ex-husband and I are very close. We just had dinner, all of us together, at our middle child's, mother of our grandson, for Easter. But I didn't just leave the marriage. I left the marriage/came out as a lesbian all at once. Coming out was also a long time coming, and not until my children had either grown and gone or very nearly. After a few rocky relationships I have lived alone for years now, in fact most of the last nine years I have lived alone. I fell through a rabbit hole and in midlife, only having known married, heterosexual life, I was shaken to the core. I was out of the marriage as well as the relationship I left it for in the blink of an eye and sat there in shock wondering what had happened. A hurricane had blown through my life. I have been shapeshifting for years now, upside down, inside out, cocooning, flying, crashing and burning, and now, quiet and content to live alone, I am thriving in this little world of my own making, and I work peacefully in this cozy, colorful space. I like the quiet. I like a snoring pug on my feet. I have my latt
é in the morning with my beloved grey parrot Henry on my shoulder as I am organizing my work for the day.

What I realized was that amidst heartache, loss, and confusion I had turned more to my fiberwork, out of my head and into my hands, and retreated to my solitude to heal, and truly, having come from a childhood that taught me that being alone was the safest place to be, and animal companions were my best friends, in a way it would be natural that I would move, as a mid-life woman, into what was most comfortable for me, and working from home suits me very well.

In the lonely years I got very involved in the internet as well, and found that I spent more and more time on the net because I was lonely and it was a wonderful way to make friends and feel a sense of kindredness with many lovely spirits, but then turn off the computer and sit in my silent cottage when I needed to. Trouble was, I got so into blogging (several) and more, my real writing got farther and farther away. At one time I maintained 15 lists and a large internet community and, an avid reader all of my life, I barely read. I clung to my computer life as if to a life raft in a stormy sea, and in the last couple of years have been waking up to the realization that what I loved best, what best defined me, was my writing, and reading, and today I am spending far less time on the net and working on my book, reading books, caring for my animals and life at the cottage, and I am finding a new kind of peace, a peace that passeth all understanding, for the first time in years. I am in love with a woman who is currently working far away, but my animals are great company. I love my children but have only one here, but she, her wonderful partner, and their son, my only grandchild, live near and are my special delights. And my dear friend Jeff is in and out all the time, and I have lovely friends near and far, but mostly I have fallen back into the world of words, with fiber art on the side and throughout my days to help keep me calm and centered.

I have turned a corner. I have found my true self, 54 years next month, in-the-making, and I love mid-life and growing into my wisdom years. I am more comfortable in myself than I have ever been. I keep this one blog to keep me centered and to keep track of myself and my life. To find out what I am thinking, often a surprise, mostly a way to solidify, by nailing words down on paper or here on the computer, feelings that are rising but moving slowly from amorphous blobs inside of me into concrete words that help me see who I am. This is my form of journalling these days, and it is serving me well. And I love the blogging community, all kinds of blogs, from cooking to gardening to fiber work to animal rescue/animal companions, and so much more.

So now I am finding my way and it feels both significant and timely. I have picked up my fountain pen and notebook, my computer at my side, books all around. I have come home, and it feels good. I have come home to me...

Time to put on the water for tea and read before bed, pen and notebook at my side, and, having settled back into my own true skin, I celebrate this decade that has given me the gift of learning who I truly am...

Love and Blessings to All,



Emma said...

A kindred spirit. My first fountain pen was a Waterman Phileas and I've become addicted to fountain pens. I refuse to write with anything else. Except the computer. And I, too, often write with the laptop on half my lap and a half-pug on the other half. Like right now. Can you hear the snoring?

Maitri Libellule said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maitri Libellule said...


How lovely to hear from you! Thanks for stopping in and I really appreciate your kind comments. My Phileas is right by my side, my laptop on my lap and I might be able to hear your pugalug if one of mine wasn't trying to drink my latte because he is sitting on the arm of my chair, sitting transfixed, looking at the foam. Sammy is my velcro pug. All the others are around me, but he's a boy only another pug mama could understand!)

So sorry to take so long to answer. I usually answer everyone right away but I have a broken wrist and am hunting and pecking!

Blessings to you


March 29, 2008 12:55 PM

Helen said...

Hello, what lovely thoughts you have shared. I love fountain pens and have several myself. I fear that handwriting is becoming a lost art in the fast-paced world of electronics. I often wonder how many of today's youth will be able to look back on the hand written notes they passed in class and the love letters that came the slow way and not in an instantaneous blur. What they are missing out on!

Post a Comment