This post is a suggestion from Tim. Since we haven’t been formally writing together for a while, maybe we can exchange photos. He suggested my house as a subject and thought that making edits to create abstractions would be a good idea. What I found was that I was having trouble holding the camera steady, so I decided to go with out-of-focus as a source of mystery. Besides, then I don’t have to worry about people reading the print, like book titles or my sorting categories.
We should start with fundamentals, so here’s what’s under me at the moment.
The tiger is needlepoint I did at meetings. I bought two of these wicker chairs before I left Portland. The cats use them for scratching posts and since the chairs are cheaper than scratching posts, I didn’t stop them. But I’ve begun replacing some parts with copper sheets and wires. I like it so well, I think I’ll do it more.
Alongside me (this is my computer chair) is Squibbie’s window. If she’s not here, she’s outside prowling through the grass. She sleeps the night here. In winter I turn on a lamp over her. The scenery is the backyard where intruder animals come and go, a flycatcher circles from a base on the clothesline, in fall there are swirls of leaves and in winter there are swirls of snow.
The red ladder is not because the cats can’t jump but because if the ladder is not there, they go up on my chair, across the keyboard, and onto the pad -- leaving a trail of dust, strange particles and ants.
Cracker’s window faces the front yard. You can tell what the temperature is by which part of the bed she’s on. This is warm. Slightly chilly is right in the middle. Quite chilly is cuddled up in the pillows.
This is my chair where I spend much of my time. This long wall is one reason I bought this house so I could put up the bookcase boards I’ve packed all over the continent all my adult life. When I put my mother’s “pinup” lamps and my own together, I had enough similar lamps to space around the walls. There are two other bookcase walls with lamps, but not as long as this one. This was my mother’s chair, first furniture when she married. This slipcover is for summer but I keep the same Navajo blanket and pillow. The laundry basket is for discarding because I’m sorting clips and printouts and the regular wastebaskets fill up too quickly. Every place I sit to work is equipped with a basket and a mug for scissors, place markers (I use the postcards from friends -- some are pretty old.) , high-lighters, antacids, stapler, scotch tape and other trivia. The hassock, floor and other surfaces around me are always piled with papers, either because I want to read them or because I’m sorting for discard.
This is my window: the front door. It’s what my chair faces. A six-year-old made me the birdhouse feeder when I moved here but I stopped using it because the seeds fall on the ground and the birds collect them where they are easy pickin’s for the neighborhood cats. In winter there are downy woodpeckers in this tree. In spring it is thronged with small birds that eat the tender buds and catkins.
This tree is my television set: I stare at it for long periods, watching the light move through it. It’s in the lee of the house -- facing south. There is an empty lot next and then the Baptist church.
Next to the front door is my red desk which Bob bought for me. I painted it red when antiquing kits were all the rage. The photos on the display shelf are of him but otherwise this is my money station where I keep bills and check books. Under this writing shelf are drawers. On the display shelf I keep small rather precious things: a buffalo stone (baculite fossil); amethyst geode (broken open), a little silver chalice my brother made, an Inuit carving of a narwhal.
This is the corner to the right of the red desk, the SW corner of the house. The houseplants are outside for the summer. I change the curtains, the quilt and pillow covers according to the season, but the paintings don’t change. I never change the leopard pillow either. This sofa is too short to sleep on but it fits my spaces. I got it at the Sally Ann. It’s good for naps with your feet up and a cat on your stomach.
People used to buy Noxema, Vicks and Milk of Magnesia in blue bottles. There’s a famous dead tree on the Oregon coast where all the branches are festooned with blue bottles. They don’t make blue bottles much anymore so I was frustrated when I tried to accumulate a collection. Finally I just bought one. This is it. Not big. The basket at the top holds greeting cards. The one down a shelf is my kit for little booklets. The left hand sides are empty because that’s where Squibbie sits to watch the front yard and the houses across the street where dogs live. It faces west but is shaded by two huge blue spruces.
My mother’s basket collection is on top of my kitchen cabinets. The tiger lily wallpaper is a roll I bought thirty years ago and have packed it around until I got to this house. The Oregon Repertory Singers poster rhymes with it nicely in my opinion.
This is my kitchen worktable where the mail and the blood glucose sample kit and the hats and the “really big” bouquets move through. This window looks east and is a constant shifting kuppelhorizont of cloud, wind, stars, sun and moon, an excellent theatre featuring the planet.
At bedtime I go back to my shirting-striped room on the NW corner. I made this painting a long time ago with a kitchen spatula. it’s a sort of vague copy of a series made by a rather famous abstract expressionist. People from here snort and giggle. I went through a purist phase when I didn’t buy silk flowers, but these peonies and roses are nice. The gardenia wreath turns out to be a good home for baby spiders, so I have to take it outside and blow it out now and then to keep them from rappeling down onto me. A few nights ago a big spider came calling and landed on my arm. I was half-asleep and swatted it flat just as Garfield would. Then Crackers ate it. My hero.
This is our safe place -- cluttered with nostalgia and projects, facing all the right directions. At night the train at the grain elevator blows its mournful whistle as it starts the wheat on its journey across the planet, carrying life.