Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Our house is modest but interesting. Three stories, half stucco and half cedar shakes. I suppose the architectural style – much as I try to see some trace of arts-and-crafts or mission in it – is basically 1929 four-square: the “prairie box” as opposed to Prairie Style. What gives it a little interest is that, attached to one of those boxy sides – on the first and second floors – are sunrooms, filled with windows and light. The upper one is my study.* I used to feel guilty because I’m kind of a messy-desk person, and I’ve felt that I don’t deserve such a nice room. Now I feel guilty because it sits empty much of the time.

It’s not that I’m “studying” (or reading or writing) less, it’s that I’ve experienced a psychological and spatial shift toward the agora (or -- what would the Greek word for the home gathering place be?). This came about for two coincidental reasons: When I started this blog hobby a couple of years ago, Caryl noted, just a little peevishly, that I was holed up in my study “all the time.” With the merest hint of defensiveness (what could be more important than my blog!), I brought my laptop down into the kitchen. At about the same time, our daughter and son-in-law were staying with us while they were house-hunting, and the kitchen computer became a convenient tool in their quest. And then I got used to having it there. We bought a laptop table at Ikea (“Dave” – Ikea names all its furniture, and that, no kidding, is the name), and I found that my precious thoughts could actually percolate through the buzz and hum of the kitchen. And, I – no surprise – like Caryl’s company. (In our previous house, in Anchorage, we had a large room with our desks facing each other. I liked that, too. )

In a similar vein, a friend says he prefers to write his sermons in the busy milieu of the coffee shop. More and more that also works for me.

The kitchen was okay for me and Dave, but just a bit close to the stove, and I was afraid I was beginning to scuff the floor sliding the wooden kitchen chair back and forth. For months I'd had a kind of feng shui hunch that a certain nook in the living room, tucked into a corner at the base of the stairs, would be perfect. Kind of the best of both worlds: A bit of occasional isolation (we’re in the living room less frequently than the kitchen), yet still situated in the middle of things, family-wise. After considering a $1,400 desk, we settled for one somewhat less expensive at a popular near-by discount store (but no one will ever know).

So here I sit and tap away… “Yes, dear?” …Now… Where was I…?”

I was about to say that, interestingly (and sadly?), in the internet age I have less need to cover my desk with reference books than before, so it is easy to slide the laptop into the drawer façade and – voila! – as guests arrive: an instantly-neat side table in a living room corner. (Of course I still read books, but in the easy chair in the living room. Once again the lonely study sighs with abandonment.)

Why am I going on about this? (Heaven forbid that I would ever start off on a topic with no idea where I’m headed. Heaven forbid!) For three reasons:
  • I wonder, does the art of feng shui – which deals with the relationship between people and objects, and the movement among them -- dictate the placement of a desk in such a way as to optimize one’s sense of well being in relation to the work done at the desk and one’s inter-action with people in the room?
  •  Where, dear reader, do you prefer to do your “work?” And why? (I like the interview show on C-Span where the author being interviewed takes you into his study and shows you around.)
  • What are we going to do with a beautiful unused sunroom lined with windows on three walls, books on the fourth, and filled with light?

    *The poet John Ciardi, in his Saturday Review column, once fretted that his use of the word "study" for his work room might sound a bit pretentious. I wondered, too; but I've gotten used to it. Years ago, an old pastor friend reminded me to refer to my room in the church as my "study" and not my "office," as a reminder of what really is supposed to go on there.

1 comment:

Emily Hamner said...

Your "study" is an artist's dream studio. All you need is an easel, a canvas, a brush, paint, and inspiration. Sounds like a perfect hobby to work on during your retirement years.