by Zinta Aistars
...is what exactly? I'm not sure I know. But, quite suddenly, I realize I want one. Happens when things are being moved around in your life and in your home. With one of my babies grown and gone from the nest, a bedroom had opened up for new use. Small, certainly, and I probably wouldn't call it more than a generous walk-in closet in terms of size. But my needs and wants are modest, the creative space I require to be expansive has always been more in reference to imagination than measurable in square feet or metrics, and when I measured this little room with fantasy unreeling its long ribbons… the space began to stretch out into forests, plains, and oceans. A kind of Z's version of Where the Wild Things Are, with a nod of appreciation to childhood favorite, Maurice Sendak. All things are possible in my little den.
By this point in my life, perhaps a few less wild jungly things, though, and a few more peaceful shores, lapping at my feet. Yes, I could see that here. In fact, my son's wallpaper trim of lighthouses on rocky crags along all four walls were just fine by me. But all else would have to go. Out came the bed. Closet: empty. Gone the collectible cars and stray pieces of stereo equipment, piles of empty CD cases, rock star posters and bookshelves of paperbacks (espionage, mystery, wartime flashbacks).
Standing in an empty room, it is interesting for me to realize, for an odd and lost moment, how clueless I am. A mother, once a wife, too long a girlfriend, I am always more about giving than taking. About considering the needs and wants of others before my own. How does one create a room… for just me?
I begin where I always begin: with a good book. They were already spilling over throughout the rest of the house. The only rooms without bookshelves in my home are… wait. There aren't any. Living and family rooms have bookshelves taller than I. I've created a bookshelf for favorite cookbooks on top of my refrigerator. And there's a stack of Poets & Writers magazines in my bathroom, and slender poetry volumes, perfect for long, inspirational bathtub soaks. In my bedroom, there are now three separate stacks of books begging to be read beside the bed, so I begin with those. Into my new den they go, best of the best on the shelf within easiest reach, the already read on the uppermost. At eyelevel go Barbara Kingsolver's essays, C. S. Lewis, Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, Dorianne Laux, Marge Piercy, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ingrid Hill, Norah Vincent, Czeslaw Milosz, and Elizabeth Gilbert.
It doesn't take long for me to fill all the shelves available in this space, and soon the little room is a hug of fine literary adventure on three walls. The fourth is an open window, and I pause to enjoy the spring breeze coming in, catching among the branches of the fir tree just outside. An open window invites a chair beside it for a longer pause, a stray daydream to wander in and out of the window, a wandering gaze lost into the distance.
A chair? Where will I find an unused chair? I peek back into my bedroom. There, in the corner, with my silky unmentionables draped over the arm. A sweater across the back. A cat curled on its seat.
I tug and push the soft, padded lounge chair through my bedroom door, dropping silky things along the way, into my new dream room. It fits perfectly in the corner by the window. I sit. I close my eyes and lift my face to the breeze. I dream…
I dream other comforts and cozies into this space, and soon action follows dream. Laptop here, disks there. Files, stapler, paper clips in a glass bowl. A pile of various sizes pads of paper, a ceramic cup of freshly sharpened pencils. Another small round table for a small lamp, the slender green glass vase my daughter brought back for me from Italy last winter, a cigar box of odd business cards of people and places I will probably never meet again, fragrant candles and wooden matches, a wooden spoon someone loved once carved for me, a woven basket of stones collected from beaches as far apart as Puget Bay, the Baltic Sea and Lake Superior. A ceramic pitcher with ancient Latvian designs to hold paintbrushes with tiny furred tips. An amber egg.
Walls, yes, bare white walls, and I arrange a blue watercolor my father painted long ago of a lone boat just come in from the sea. It speaks of serenity. A small framed oil of mother and child a young woman once sent me in gratitude for edits on her manuscript – and I had thought I wasn't kind. Photographs: an old church in Piltene, my children very young, my children grown, my sister who loves me even when I am impossible standing on the staircase beside me. A calendar decorated with Psalms.
On the wooden floor, beaten with many steps and scrapes and dug-in heels (must remain exposed, I think), a small rug just beneath my feet when I sit and read by the window. My chow pup, Guinnez, circles and circles and finds his spot immediately.
It is evening then. Night has crept into my open window. I change into a nightgown and soft, long robe and curl into my grandfather's chair. He read for hours in this chair, a writer, too, with a dozen novels showing his name on the spines. I sit, rocking, rocking, and thinking of him, long gone.
The light glows honey mellow in the room, throwing a golden glow into all the corners. I will write epic poems here, I think. I will write a great novel. I will write heart-baring journals and leather-bound travel logs about all the places outside my window and inside it, too. I will sit in this chair, rocking gently, and reading the masters, classic and new. I will leave the world outside the door when I enter, and inside, I will create new worlds. And, sometimes, I will invite the Wild Things to play here, too.
I sit for hours, marking the passing of the evening into night. Marveling at the essence of space and how it changes by what we bring into it, both tangible and intangible, when my son appears in the doorway of what was once his room. In his outstretched hands, he holds in a little green pot – a delicately blushing pink cyclamen. The petals of the blossoms are folded down along their stems, as if yet too shy, yet waiting to bloom.
"For your new room," he says.
I press lips to his unshaven cheek. My little boy, how did I raise him so well, to know exactly what a space needs to become perfect?