Whether or not I travel for the holidays, the end brings a jet-lag, new-time-zone feeling. It’s also a little like moving, since we tend to reconfigure the house significantly to accommodate festivity. My writing desk, for instance, was deployed as a beverage station.
I got the desk on May 2, 2009. (I’m able to be this precise because I wrote about acquiring it.) Shortly thereafter, our laptops were stolen, and for a while it put me off keeping the computer in such an obvious place. Besides, I felt like there was something maybe a little precious about ooh, I must be at my desk to commune with the muse.
But in restoring the desk area post-festivities, I started thinking it could also be precious in its more positive sense; dear, treasured. And that simply maintaining a physical space devoted to writing (even if it takes on other functions from time to time) is a way of claiming writing as a priority.
Oliver Sacks made me remember how nice it is to have objects on a desk that give your hands something to do while you stare into the middle distance:
Beach glass, smooth stones, petrified wood, tiny animals, a clay skull, an antique pillbox, a miniature pitcher, a yellow off-kilter heart with a bright red crab inside. I’ve had this assemblage for some time, but managed to disregard its tactile appeal for reasons that now escape me as I pause from typing to pick up each object in turn. And you can’t see it, but the pewter tray they all rest on has an engraved Raggedy Ann.
This bowl is full of ancestral objects:
The souvenir wallet from Atlantic City, plastic fan, beaded change purse, and silver compacts all belonged to the grandmother I never knew but whom I somewhat resemble, who died shortly after giving birth to my father. The daguerrotype is an unknown ancestress, and the contractor badge belonged to my great-grandfather. (I wish I knew more about the history of contractor badges. If you do, let me know.) The stoneware bowl is another family object.
And even though I do most of my writing on my laptop, pens are important:
They’re inside my favorite mug from when I was a small child. I was entranced by the colors and how they change depending on the light, the elephant that functions as the handle, and the panels, each of which illustrates a different fairytale. Behind the mug is a bottle I bought at an estate sale. It once contained Weber Waterproof Drawing Ink for the use of artists and draftsmen, freely flowing and non corrosive as its lovely label attests. Now it holds the marbles my dad played with as a kid.
Here’s a closer look at elephant and bottle:
Below, my laptop in action. (You can’t tell, but the screen shows my latest project in Scrivener.) Behind it is Sarah Oleksyk‘s pen-and-ink drawing of characters from my Flytrap Circus stories. (Yes, I plan to write more of them.)
Above Sarah’s art hangs a piece called Carruaje de delirios by the Cuban artist Eduardo Guerra Hernandez. I bought it nearly ten years ago when I was fortunate enough to visit Cuba.
I’ve looked for more information about him for years, and just yesterday found this slideshow. (I’m not so much a fan of the musical accompaniment, but I like seeing all the work.)
Finally, here I am seated at the desk, courtesy of Photobooth. Behind me is the W4W Buzz poster from Dis Magazine:
The desk won’t stay like this, of course. The available surface will be filled with stacks of research books, cups of coffee, and — inevitably — the cat, whom I hope will refrain from predating the more fragile of the ancestral objects.
That’s my staging area as of 1/2/11. I’d love to see yours.