Saturday, January 09, 2010

My Home, My Self

I have guests in my house this week, so I haven’t been sitting at my computer and actually typing on my novel, but that doesn’t mean that my life hasn’t been all about writing.  My relatives have been going over the MS and giving me suggestions about where it should go from here.  When others critique my work, sometimes I listen, and sometimes I don’t, but I am always shown an original way to approach the story/characters//plot.

Before the family arrived on Wednesday, I spent several days housecleaning.  I am a relatively tidy person, but we haven’t had an extended visit from a relative for years, and so I set about the task as though heading into battle. You grow used to your environment, and after a while you don’t see what is right before your face, until you go into it in depth, picking up each item, moving things around, digging into corners. It is amazing what you can learn about yourself if you look with new eyes at the space you inhabit. 

Here is what close examination of my domicile taught me about myself:

I live in an atelier.  Every room in my house has to do with writing. Shelves, tables, surfaces, closets, desks, all contain notes and files, reference books and manuscripts, computers, printers, supplies.  I keep a notebook on my bedside table, so that when I wake in the middle of the night bursting with a fabulous idea or the perfect image or combination of words, I can scribble them down before they are lost. It was fascinating to read some of the gems I wrote.  A few of them even made sense, and even the ones that didn’t often had a certain poetic je ne sais quoi.  To wit: “I didn’t remember the word, but I knew there was an ‘N’ in it, because I could feel the spirit of “‘N’-ness .The ‘N’-ness of it.”   And, “ I want to protect her, which makes me want to hurt her.”

I live in a library.  We had books piled on and in every available space in the house.  We were tripping over books.  So we decided to do a major go-through and box up any book that could not be lived without and donate them to the library. We boxed close to 500 books, and yet we still do not have one inch of space on any bookshelf. At least I can see a few of the table tops. I would be embarrassed to admit how many books we have, but I feel sure that most of you reading this post are just as bad as I am, if not worse.

I live in a museum. Our house is filled with artifacts of our lives.  I painted the landscape over the sofa in 1975.  I picked up those grave rubbings in England in the ‘60s.  My parents bought the end table in the living room for their house in the early 1950s.  My sister hand-embroidered that wall-hanging. Most everything my eye falls upon - furniture, decoration, art, even clothing - has a backstory.  In fact, as I look up from this computer, I see four watercolors Don and I did of the views outside our apartment in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, in 1977.

I live in a shrine.  Don loves Asian religious art, so the house is blessed with dozens of statues of the Buddha, Krishna, Ho Toi, Ganesh, Rama, Kwan Yin.  I also have a peculiar little shrine to myself.  When my mother died a few years ago, we four sibs divided up the hundreds of photographs, mostly claiming pictures of ourselves.  Consequently the entertainment center in the family room contains  Donis' Life Story in Pictures, from the ages of two to forty, when I ceased to be quite so adorable and lost interest in having my portrait made.