Every item in Barbara’s house is parallel to everything else and I feel like I’m leaving traces of my presence each time I visit to borrow the quiet room on the third floor. By the time I arrive, my writing bag packed, the chores from home staved off for a few hours, the fires in my heart stoked to blazing, waiting to get to that page—by the time I arrive I wonder if all the fiery energy blows disarray into the very air of this tidy, beautiful little house. Are all the shoes still parallel, where they wait in a gentle line by the door? The dishes and plates, are they still in their places? Simple arrangements of flowers adorn the table, the entrance, and I know the little studio will have more, too. This pair of yellow roses smells like tea, just like my mother’s rose bush when I was a child.
On the way up the steps I notice a pair of pajamas and a fleece jacket tossed casually on the bed, and the non-parallel arrangement tickles me: something out of place! How lovely! In the third floor studio, too, I note the door is ajar to the tiny deck, and a few small clumps of soil rest on the tatami floor. I pick them up, delighted, and walk the bits of soil out to the deck before I can step on them by accident and grind them permanently in. I toss the crumbs of earth over the edge of the deck, where they can grow something.
Spring is here in all her messy glory, deck surrounded by buds, carpenter bees buzzing, birdsong charming. I can see only a hint of seafoam through the trees, can hear only a bit of the waves through some steady sound of construction equipment or maybe the humming of Coast Guard helicopters in the distance. I’ve forgotten the sunscreen again, unaccustomed to this new routine.
Much work to do on The Essay today. Classwork is a joy when I can simply let all the guilt go, guilt about all the undone things calling me from my own home, miles away. That’s why I’m here: most things are parallel here, in the right place, and not much disturbs me but the notion that I’m leaving a trail. Now I see Barbara herself leaves a trail, so I will worry less, by two crumbs of soil and one pair of pajamas.
A nuthatch swishes by me twice and I wonder if I’m too close to her nest. Much to do. Batteries run low and I will need to be near an outlet, and avoid sunburn that way, too. I will head inside for a bit, plug in the laptop and get to work.
But meanwhile I am thankful for everything, for things parallel and messy, for the gift of fresh flowers in a vase and a space dedicated to quiet and concentration. For Barbara who offered this place, “because you would do the same for me.” For the work ahead of me.
The carpenter bee hovers between me and the laptop—time to go.