Saturday, November 1, 2008

Corners ~ or ~ The Worlds We Build Around Us...

"The point of departure of reflections is the following: every corner in a house, every angle in a room, every inch of secluded space in which we like to hide, or withdraw into ourselves, is a symbol of solitude for the imagination; that is to say, it is the germ of a room, or of a house."

~ Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space ~

"Je suis l'espace où je suis."

("I am the space where I am.")

Noël Arnaud ~

I was perusing my bookshelves last night and I grasped this book up with such glee that I squealed with delight. I used to have my books in an order that made sense, but having moved many times in the last decade, I have books that I know are here, but God help me, it's a really wild treasure hunt to embark on the search and rescue mission necessary to find just the book that I am looking for. And then one day, one odd little day out of nowhere, I am standing there having just put in a load of wash or having done some other mundane task and I turn around and I am staring right at it. I don't believe for one moment that this sort of thing is an accident. We find the things we need in the right and proper time, and not when we think we need them.

Bachelard's books are such pure magic, a deep pool to drink from, you can never read them enough, and when you've read them several times they are the kind of books that you can simply flip through, meditating on marked passages, and be transported back to the first time you read the book, and where it took you. These are some of the most treasured books in my library and I have most of his books.

I would like to share with you a paragraph from the back of the book, the publisher's notes, to give you an idea of who Bachelard is and what marvelous books he wrote. This is on The Poetics of Space.

"In this illuminating and strikingly original work, philosopher Gaston Bachelard, considered by many to be the father of the new French critics, explores the philosophical significance of the various kinds of space that attract and concentrate the poetic imagination. He examines spaces of intimacy and immensity -- rooms, forests, shells, corners, closets -- and seeks to determine how the poetic image is apprehended, not by psychology or rationalism, but by recourse to a pure phenomenology that considers the onset of an image in individual consciousness. This requires us to go beyond our experience in time to attain the level of daydreams, where time ceases to quicken memory and space is everything."

~ The Orion Press, 1964 ~

Just let your mind roll these titles around and about the grey matter of your brain, and you will feel them permeate in a way books seldom do... The Poetics of Reverie: Childhood, Language, and the Cosmos; Psychoanalysis of Fire; Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter; Air and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Movement. Bachelard's books are literary, philosophical, and magic carpet rides into the imagination. And when I first read them, decades ago, it was as if a sigh of relief escaped my lips and my whole body went limp with relief. Here was someone, finally, who spoke my language. Here was someone who not only could understand one such as I, but for whom my little world would have made perfect sense. Here was a man I could have had a cup of tea with and not have to explain myself. We could simply be.

The reason this quote came to me today, not surprisingly, is that I have been thinking a lot about my physical space. I have lived here for just over 6 1/2 years, and in the next 6 months to a year I will be moving. If you've read my blog you read about the yellow house that I love. I am far too cramped now, and the new space would be delicious and would allow my whole being to expand to fill the space, and yet... and yet...

I was a little girl who grew up in a 4,000 square foot house, to the outside world a dream home, beautiful enough to be in any magazine, but around any corner might lurk danger for me, and if I had millions of dollars I'd never buy the kind of house I see here in our town, the 10,000 square foot houses that make no sense to me and frighten me a little. No, in my home, whether the 1,000 square feet I now live in, or the yellow house of my dreams with about 2 1/2 times that space, I have my nooks filled with the things around me, within an arm's reach, that I need to do my work and be happy. I would have these same cozy corners in the new house, even though it would be much bigger. I feel safer in small spaces. My back must always be to a wall, and I like it cool enough that I can throw one of my old vintage quilts over my lap. I don't feel so naked then.

Some years back when I had my small press, The Blue Hibiscus Press, through which I published a little 100 page publication, a quarterly, all on blue paper -- The Contemplative Way: Slowing Down In A Modern World ~ while I had a good sized home office, my actual workspace not only looked like, but was about as easy to get into, as the cockpit of an airplane. Once wedged in I was surrounded by my desk, 2 tables down each side, and shelves with supplies behind me. Room for reading and writing, the light table. The whole thing, while typed on a computer, was done by hand, cutting and pasting and making of the pages readable works of art, just the kind of thing I love to do, just the kind of thing I'm doing now. I would work well into the middle of the night and felt safe, surrounded by all the components of my little world, dogs lying near me, stars twinkling outside my windows like cut glass on midnight blue velvet, and the silence of the sleeping household, my husband and three children longsince asleep. I love those hours between midnight, and sunrise -- the weesmas, or wee small hours of the morning. Those hours are still precious to me, though I seldom work all night because my household of twelve animal companions demand that their needs be met, and are up early, and truly, if I didn't have to feed dogs and birds and fish, I might not get up at all!

Now, in my little cottage, I have a few work areas. My desk with my desktop computer, bookshelves to my left and behind me, a work table filled with supplies. Fiber and spindles and crochet hooks and knitting needles and looms all around me. My life is all of a piece, looking more like a crazy quilt than one with a beautiful, uniform design. And perhaps truth be told, my life looks a little like the old vintage quilts I collect, a little faded here and there with brilliant colors standing out amongst tattered spots, and beautiful stitching. Inotherwords, it is a life well lived, through the ups and the downs, the hard times and those filled with joy. And, worn soft with age, it is always the kind of thing I reach for first over and above the new and the brightly beautiful, like stepping into an old worn ratty pair of slippers because they feel so good while the ones you got for Christmas still sit new in the box in the bottom of your closet. I must keep my life safe at all costs to manage to move about my little world filled with a peaceful calm, and I have learned to do it quite well.

My other little corner, and I have written about it before, and even shown pictures, is my huge, overstuffed chair and giant ottoman. It was a pass-me-down from dear friends, just perfect for a roundish woman, fiber everywhere, a shelf of books, a pug or two, a big black dog on the floor on one side, and yet another pug on the other side, a grey parrot on my shoulder, and a big white cockatoo who likes to sit on the other shoulder and preen me, ever so gently, so lightly it makes me giggle. She is deeply attached to me, protective of me, and loves me the way only an animal can, with no complaints nor regrets about what you are and what you are not, they just purely love you.

The thing is, when I have my laptop propped on two good sized pillows, my old quilt over my legs, puglings everywhere plus Moe, the big black gentleman of the group, and a parrot or three on my person, I can't get up to take a picture. I believe we must be quite a sight, but then, we just are what we are, and this may be the coziest corner of all.

So fear not for me, I am being beautifully preened, guarded, I am sharing my cereal with Henry the grey; Sampson my velcro pug is sprawled on the arm of the oversized chair, legs dangling on either side, face smooshed down on the arm (it becomes very difficult to figure out where pug stops and chair starts!) snoring away; and, last night, I had to laugh out loud. He must have been dreaming. In the midst of his soft little pug snores, he smiled. I mean a very big smile. He must have been dreaming of lovely things. I'd have given anything to have gotten a picture of it. It's the kind of thing you have to see to believe, but it was a sweet moment, one of many in a life filled with animals and a quiet world where everything is experienced deeply, in slow motion, a time out of time experience.

Yes, Bachelard's world is the kind of world I dream of. Imagine living inside a seashell, or making a cozy little hideaway in a closet as I have seen done under staircases in old Victorian homes and sighed over, and corners, I'd love to know about your corners, and if I were a forest dweller I would have my home under the great roots of a giant tree, and live amongst the Root Children, one of my favorite childhood books, that I dearly love, still today.

And so in these busy days ahead, as I work on my books, and have reopened my etsy shop for Dragonfly Cottage Design Studio, I will be writing, and researching, and doing myriad types of fiber work (part of the proceeds of my fiber work goes to Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue...) and the days will fly like a kite, in the wide sky, even as I sit in my tiny little corner, doing my work, and dreaming my dreams.

Yes, Bachelard's books will be great companions for the journey, softly worn, passages marked that feel like re-encountering old friends, and crazy quilt of a cozy corner wrapped around me.

Do you like cozy corners or wide open spaces? What do you suppose it means? It is surely something to ponder, and I will create my little corners wherever I am all the days of my life.

Have a beautiful, and blessed, and safe, cozy week ahead...



Judy said...

Oh, Maitri, we are so much alike in our cozy little corners with our backs to the wall forever "safe". My only true guardian and protector is my 12-year-old labrador, Abby, whom I rescued when she was two. She was so afraid and so mistrusting of everyone but has turned into an intelligent loving "shadow". We live in a long, sprawling 2500 foot ranch but I have my "space" to which I can escape when necessary. Love to read your blog daily; you have so much to share!

Maitri Libellule said...


Thank you so much for visiting and for your kind words. And what would we do without our animal companions. I just don't know how I'd make it. I'm glad you have your special place and Abby to share it with.

Blessings to you, and visit again!


Lidian said...

How lovely...I like little spaces too. And I like to have one of our cats downstairs with me while I work - the one that keeps me company most often snores, just like your dear pug (when she is not stepping on the keyboard, helping)

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