A desk, a walk and an idea

I bought a desk

When I decided to be a writer, to go all-in with the profession whenever it fits within the larger profession of all that stuff I do at home, I decided to buy a desk. We found a beautiful writing desk, probably from the 1940s on Craigslist and I sent my husband to fetch it. My first write-off.

It sat in our bedroom, beautifully situated against dazzling red curtains striped with gold, where I could gaze into the yard at the flowering plum tree and growing cypress trees.

We moved from that house and the desk came with us.

It still sits near the curtains but faces a wall and I seldom sit at it. Above it hang watercolor paintings reprinted in a storybook of Christmas tales from around the world. These being from China, remind me of my grandmother of Chinese heritage. There is a pink depression-era vase from my grandmother as well, with an artificial stargazer lily that helped me stage our wedding cake decorations 13 years ago. Also, a lavender-scented candle, the journal I don’t use, a stack of books I may or may not be reading, but feel the need to keep close for the time being.

miscellaneous items that inspire me

There are palms from Palm Sunday (which happens in spring), two vintage thimbles, and a squirrel ornament. The store called it a Buri squirrel. We call it a “John Buri squirrel” after a favorite college professor. There are scraps of mail and a borrowed book from the historical society. Two doilies from a friend who knew I’d like that sort of thing, and a statue of the Virgin Mary I hauled around Europe for the man I’d eventually marry sit on the corner. Oh, and one antique key. I do so love antique keys.

It’s all just as haphazard as it sounds.

Books and a buri squirrel on my desk

Tonight these things are joined by my laptop where I sit to write the third night in the row. Now that events are on, so is the world, which means I have events to write about.

I return to my desk.

The kids returned to school, that is, a school routine in our living room where they are homeschooled.

I returned also to walks.

For various reasons I seem to move less in life this past year and finally felt awful enough to do something about it. Out to the field, I walk following the dirt roadways between the orchards that surround our home. My eyes scan the tree trunks for coyotes. The birds’ song fill my ears as I observe the changes of the seasons.

But most of all I think of the day I walked out with my son and daughter. That day, we did not merely walk. They took me into their little world, a world with names like the Blissful Field of Eternity, Barron Rock, Fun Hill, Shadow Ranch Fort and Dew Trop Tree. There, they showed me their forts and causeway, their hiding spots, their settlements. We walked through fallen trees, branches and weeds.

This place that so secret, so special, so entirely in their heads, they showed it all to me, and happily at that.

They let me in on the secret.

And by opening that secret to me, the trees, ridges, dirt and overgrowth of winter are transformed into something magical I could not make myself. Here at my desk, I surround myself with the remnant of others’ art because it inspires in my deep thoughts. These children with their imaginations are making the art, even if it is as passing as the seasons.

There is something about that invitation that I cannot move beyond as I look into my thoughts to retrieve a subject for this column. Perhaps that is part of the magic of it. For children gain no good other than the play itself. They do not create these worlds for money or prestige or likes. They do it because they must, as creative beings, bored in their old-fashioned upbringing, blessed with some space to run.

We need to remember that, too.

Whether for utility or pleasure, the walk is a good in itself.

And maybe, just maybe, the writing desk is, too.


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