Nature adores a vacuum

Dog has been changed to protect the innocent.

Yesterday was warm and sunny, sweater weather at most. We went to the park and Nola discovered ice cubes. She also got yelled at by the dog who owned the ice cubes. For the first time, I saw her slink away from a dog instead of just shaking it off and going back for more. I find myself watching for signs like that and hoping they’re not signs.

When we got home, Dave left for his matinee and I tried to figure out what to do with the beautiful day. I raked in the yard a little but the lawn is a mud pit and there’s not much to do at this point. I came inside and there was a text from Gloria, “Are u home?”

“Yep,” I texted back, pleased to get such an informal text from someone I don’t know very well. Gloria is a dog whisperer who is unfazed by difficult animals, bad weather, and flaky owners like us who book her last-minute, “Sorry! Can you walk Nola at noon today?” I hoped she was writing to suggest a play date with Weejay, the puppy she’s dog-sitting down the block.

But no. “Jasper’s coming over to help with this vacuum. Weejay has feathers all over from a pillow and I can’t figure it out.”  I thought she must be dictating because the only Jasper in the neighborhood is a realtor and why would he be helping with a vacuum?

“Sure! I’ll come through the back.” I brought our new Oreck along just in case.

In the yard, Gloria and indeed Jasper the realtor were huddled over a bagless canister vac. After greeting me, Weejay  continued nosing the emerging forsythia, wagging his adorable little tail.

Gloria wanted to empty the vacuum before attacking what she called “a mountain of feathers in there.” I couldn’t wait to see the mess. But none of us could open the canister. It seemed like part of it should unscrew or unclip, but nothing was budging and none of us wanted to be the one to pull too hard and break it. Jasper gently poked a long-handled screwdriver into the opening. “Let me just use my vacuum,” I said.

“No. I’m not letting you do that,” said Gloria.

“I need to change the bag anyway,” I said, which was partly true. Dave hates this new Oreck because he claims it smells. I tell him, “No, it’s what the Oreck picks up that smells.” He counters, “The old Oreck didn’t smell.” I come back, “That’s because it didn’t pick anything up.” The old Oreck now lives in the basement, and he insists on lugging it upstairs whenever he’s doing the vacuuming. “Go ahead,” I say. “I’m just going to need to vacuum again tomorrow so whatever.” Surreptitiously, I change the bag as often as possible, even though Oreck bags are ridiculously expensive, being made partially of cloth, which is probably why they smell.

Gloria and Jasper poked around with the screwdriver until we agreed the canister looked pretty clean. Jasper clicked it back on the base, and then Gloria nudged another unmoving part, “I need this wand for the feathers.”

“Are there that many?”

“Oh this dog,” she said. “They’re everywhere.” I pictured the scene from North and South where the cotton bits float in a mist above everything, choking the millworkers’ lungs and causing industrial malaise. I was dying to get inside. But none of us could unclip the hose part from the carpet sweeper part. There was a lever that you either pull out or unwind like a clock, but neither way seemed to dislodge the wand, and once again we were all afraid to break it. “I’m just going to use my vacuum,” I said, grabbing the Oreck.

“No!” said Gloria.

“Don’t be weird,” I said.

“It is weird,” she retorted. I went inside and looked for the feathers. None in the kitchen. None in the dining room. Then, in the middle of the rug on the sun porch, a fluffy pyramid of white wisps. A slight drizzle of them on the sunporch sofa, and a random few drifting across the dark wood floor.

Jasper plugged in the Oreck and I vacuumed up the feathers. Weejay was briefly interested. Gloria shook her head slowly. I worried that the Oreck would smell and humiliate me on its outing, but it didn’t, or maybe the good smells in the house neutralized it—faint incense and fresh sunshine air. The procedure took about 60 seconds.

Afterward, Jasper found one rogue feather and suggested saving it for the owners. Gloria took the feather and shook her head again. We all agreed that Weejay was adorable and it was a good thing he hadn’t gone after the couch.

Jasper carried the Oreck back to my gate and went on his way. Gloria texted to say, “Thanks again,” and I texted back, “No problem. Any time.” She responded, “Hopefully it’s all downhill from here.”

I ooze love

Take love where you find it.

I ooze love. It crawls out of my pores and slimes its way across the parched landscape of humanity. You send me a broken computer, Gazelle? I ooze love.

You give me the same eight bars of hold music on a repeating loop? I ooze love.

Same hold music the first time I call, to ask what’s wrong with the iMac I sent to you perfect that you’re now saying doesn’t work.

Same hold music the second time I call, to ask why the Mac returned to us damaged, with the keyboard and mouse loose in the box, where they scratched up the screen and the metal, without the power cord and installation disks that Dave packed so carefully.

Same hold music the third time, after we’ve discovered not only is the iMac scratched up and cordless but it’s missing the hard drive and some of the screws that used to hold on the screen. Love, love, love.

This hold music varies in that it restarts after running its full loop, and any time a voice recording interrupts to say, “The next available customer service representative will be with you shortly,” which is often.

The eight bars – or maybe it’s four, I don’t know how to count music – starts with a bright electric guitar lick, sort of reminiscent of “Sister Golden Hair” from the 70s.

Then it goes into a partial buildup to what seems like it’s going to be a verse.

Then it goes into a second, more dramatic buildup, like “This is really going to be an important verse so be ready for it.”

Then there’s a slight pause…

Then the guitar kicks in again.

Does that sound like eight bars? Regardless, I just keep oozing love, because what else can I do?

I can’t undo last week’s idea to sell the old iMac to Gazelle. I can’t go back and video Dave’s reformatting of the hard disk and reinstalling Sierra and doing disk utilities and careful packing of the components using in the fancy box his new iMac arrived in. I’m not even bothering to mention how he hunted down the original installation disks even though it wasn’t required, because of course he did.

Maybe I can put the phone on speaker and make more coffee. I go in the kitchen. “I assume theft,” says Dave.

But I ooze love. I assume that the customer service rep who will be with me shortly will be as surprised as I was about the now-broken computer. Sure, someone there destroyed the iMac, threw it into a box, and sent it back to us, but surely it was an accident. “Maybe it was a new trainee or something, or something happened between shifts.”

“I’m thinking just plain theft.”

“You mean, some rogue guy at the processing center?”

“I mean the whole company,” he says.

I decide Dave is not in a place where I can put the phone on speaker right now. “They’re a huge company,” I remind him, the hold music repeating in my other ear.

“So?”

“A whole company cannot be built on a model of buying used electronics, then claiming they arrived broken and have no value.”

“Sure it can.”

“You can’t believe they would actually do that.”

“I didn’t used to believe someone like Trump could be president,” he said. “Now I figure anything’s possible.”

The hold music kicks in again. I continue to ooze love.

Working in Houston

Working, working, always working, Mami.

I just paid eight bucks for two coffees. The lady called me “Mami” and gave me a free banana. “How are you?” I asked.

“Working, working,” she said. “Always working.”

Back up in our room on the fifth floor of this hotel, there’s an impressive scene out the window. About 75 construction workers in yellow hard hats and orange vests are building a hospital or something big next door.

The scene is laid out before us like a presentation. We’re far up enough to see the whole site, and can guess what each area looks like, the parking garage part and the part that’s maybe the building…but close enough to watch the details of what they’re doing. One guy measures spacing between the rebar sticks, which Dave surmises will then be moved up as a uniform grid to form the next floor. Another carries one of a million yellow scaffolding pieces with two other guys, swinging it into place. Another drops his tool belt right where he’s standing when the break bell rings.

“They all did that,” Dave reports from the window. I’m now in bed drinking my coffee and eating half a banana. “Just unbuckled them and let them fall to the ground.” What a clear and simple way to mark your place as you head to the food truck parked at the curb or grab your prepackaged bag and thermos.

I might be making up the thermos part. But we’re close enough that Dave can marvel at how many hot dogs are being ordered at 9 AM. He describes the men leaning against a mammoth dumpster and sitting on the curb, eating or opening whatever they’ve brought along. I’m too lazy to get up and check on the thermoses… Fine, hold on.

Too late. In the time it took to scribble the above, they ate and drank and are already heading back to work. I see one guy shake hands with another. Then they hug and walk arm over shoulder back through the chain-link fence and into the area we’re calling the parking lot.

I watch another guy return to his tool belt. He stands above it and first wraps a bandanna around his head. Over that goes his hard hat. Then he grabs the belt and buckles it on. Dave is watching the building area. “Those guys can NOT get the concrete saw going,” he says. “I bet they flooded the engine.”

What’s also amazing to observe from up here is how they all seem to be moving at the same speed. No one’s in a hurry. They each seem to know what they’re doing, from the guy pushing a broom to the crane operator, who Dave says must have climbed 16 or 17 ladders to get up there—there’s no little car that carries you up on this one. They all know how to pace themselves in the Houston heat. “Now they’re tying together the rebar,” he reports. It will get raised up and another floor will be laid, and the monstrous building will “go up,” as we say, like it happens by machine.

The day after a reading is always a letdown. I was very happy with how the play sounded and the response to it after, but in the pause after one phase of work on a script feels done and I’m not sure what the next phase will be, I find myself unsure what to do with the day and overly sensitive to imagined slights like an empty coffee basket. The plan is to drive to Denton to see Dave’s home town, stopping in Tyler to visit cousin Lois. Yes. That’s a good plan and it will all start once I can get myself off the bed and into the shower.

“They finally got the concrete saw going,” Dave reports. “Phew.”

Our Shared Year of Words (with Variations)

If you need coffee, get it BEFORE you start the timer.
If you need coffee, get it before you start the timer.

On January 1 of last year, Toots and I started a writing game. We’d spent most of New Year’s Eve watching Slings & Arrows, which is not a prerequisite for the game, but it helps.

Players: 2

Materials needed: phones, notebooks or laptops, a timer (see phones)

We could have spent the day watching Season 3, but unspoken between us was the knowledge that watching TV, no matter how good, was not the way we wanted 2015 to start. Django and I walked Toots to the train, and New Years festivities were officially over.

To play:

Either player can start the game. Toss a coin maybe.

After the dog walk, I wanted to lay on the couch and read. Instead, I got my notebook and a timer, and decided to write for 20 minutes, using the word “Frame” as a prompt.

Player 1 chooses a word and texts it to Player 2.

Set your timer for 20 minutes.

Write the word at the top of the page.

Continue writing anything at all until the timer goes off.

When you’re finished, text “Done” to your partner.

When your partner is finished, they text “Done” to you.

After both players have texted “Done,” Player 2 chooses the next day’s word and texts it to you.

When I was finished, I texted Toots to tell her how my new year was going. She liked “Frame” and wrote for 20 minutes too.

“Want to do this again tomorrow” she asked.

“O-okay,” I said.

So she texted me a word for the next day: “Challenge.”

Rules and Advisements:

Wait your turn: Don’t text your partner the next day’s word, even if YOU’RE done, until they’re done too. With the exception of…

Doubling down: If you absolutely cannot write on a given day, you may “Double down” the next day. Text this to your partner, and send or receive the next day’s word. On the next day, write for 20 minutes per word.

Tripling Down: See above. You’re getting into dangerous territory, but it is possible to get back on track. Don’t give up.

On a dog walk yesterday, I lamented to Dave about how much I miss this game. Not that I wasn’t relieved for it to be over – a whole year of doing this has its ups and downs, and it’s nice to be able to freely journal again, without the word “Level” (Jan 22) or “Arriviste” (July 19) or “Cope” (Nov 11) staring at you from the top of the page. But I loved sharing the ups and downs with Toots. And completing 365 days of shared words felt amazing.

Tip:

Set your phone on silent if you don’t like getting texts at 3am.

After listening to me alternately whine about missing the game and celebrate the fact that I never again have to write about “Suppository” (Dec 30), Dave decided that he wanted to play this game. He called a friend who said, “Sure.” They had to double down immediately to catch up to properly start from January 1st, but they’re on track now to do it COMPLETELY WRONG. They’re writing too much. They’re texting each other  every twenty minutes with a new word. I think they’re on like Word 4 and it’s only January third. They’re going to burn out! But I’m keeping my mouth shut. It’s none of my business.

Variations:

Look up the word before setting your timer. Even if it’s a simple word. You might learn something.

Type if you don’t want to write. Any technology is fine.

But why a pencil? Who would write for twenty minutes with a pencil?

On today’s dog walk, Dave told me a bunch of interesting things about “Sewer.” Apparently it’s related to “Sewing” and “Serving,” which connects to “Steward.”

I might choose “Steward” today if I were still playing with Toots. But our game is complete.

Your turn.

How the Volkswagen Scandal Has Changed Me

ecobee3: Our supposedly energy-efficient new thermostat. I doubt it.
ecobee3: Our “energy-efficient” new thermostat. The app really sells it.

When we bought our 2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI, our fond hope was that we would have it for at least ten years. That’s one of the great things about diesel engines, Dave told me after much research. They can go forever. And a diesel that was also clean-burning? At last, technology and principles aligning! Then some stuff happened.

I brought home new coffee from the co-op. I cut open the top, hoping it would smell like Peet’s. It smelled good, but not as good as Peet’s.

“This smells good,” I said, shoving the bag at Dave and hoping he would say it smelled as good as Peet’s.

“Mm,” he nodded appreciatively. “But not as good as Peet’s.”

“Nothing smells as good as Peet’s,” I allowed, tossing the fair trade, people-supported, beautifully-designed packaging, perfectly good-smelling co-op coffee under the bus.

BUT THAT’S NOT HOW THE VOLKSWAGON SCANDAL HAS CHANGED ME. NO. IT’S WORSE.

“It’s a certain sweetness,” Dave mused.

“They all have it…” I added, looking for the right sweetness identifier.

“…But I can tell them all apart,” Dave clarified.

“Me too! I would totally know if I was drinking Major Dickasons versus Garuda,” I claimed, though secretly I wondered, would I?

NO, THAT’S NOT IT EITHER. IT’S DEEPER AND MORE INSIDIOUS.

“Each Peet’s blend is distinct, but they that all have that…” Dave paused.

“That…”

“That…”

“That…”

“…”

“…”

“… something,” he finished.

Yes.

It was a quiet, blissful moment that would have been otherwise unremarkable…

EXCEPT FOR WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.

“We need to either get to Peet’s or go back to the subscription service, though it feels too expensive,” was what I was about to say.

BUT SUDDENLY AN IMAGE CAME INTO MY HEAD.

At the Peet’s coffee factory, during the roasting process, workers pour the requisite amount of the synthetic extract “Peets No. 7” into the vat. This chemical cocktail was developed after much market research and consultation with a French aroma company operating out of a shell corporation in China. They’ve calculated exactly how much Peets No. 7 must be added to each batch to create the proprietary brand nose-feel experience while maximizing ROI. Too much and people will suspect foul play. Too little and they won’t find it compelling–they’ll abandon Peet’s for the stuff at the Co-op. Or Folgers. Or maybe Peet’s IS Folgers with Peet’s No. 7 added. HOW DEEP DOES THIS GO?

Old, pre-Volkswagen me would scoff.

Of course Peet’s is different, the coffee itself is better, Peet’s started in Oregon and everyone is pure there. They just wouldn’t DO that.

New, post-Volkswagen me isn’t even shocked.

I just nod dismissively, “Yeah, they probably would,” and pour the co-op coffee into the canister with the rest of the Peet’s because why bother.

Ditto Trader Joe’s “Gluten Free” Waffles, So-Delicious “Vegan” Ice Cream, Room and Board “Made in America” furniture, “eco” bee thermostats, all recycling…

That’s how.

Our vacation: a pop quiz

You get one clue.
You get one hint.

Dave and I spent a week up north to be in nature, see some colors, and generally relax. In the list below, can you spot the 2 things we DIDN’T do to make our vacation a success?

  1. Locate vacuum cleaner immediately upon arrival and vacuum entire cottage.
  2. Replace  fluorescent  bulbs with LEDs purchased at hardware store in town.
  3. Sweep front steps and walk, though no one’s coming over we hope.
  4. Rearrange living room furniture. Twice.
  5. Outfit the dog for woodsy hikes in bright orange hunting vest, bright orange hunting collar, and blinking light for collar, then mostly walk on the beach.
  6. Purchase a sled.
  7. Consider purchasing a 1000-piece Jesus puzzle but ultimately decide on a pack of cards.
  8. Nestle in front of the fire with dog curled adorably in shower stall.
  9. Plan and cook meals that make best use of the available pots and pans.
  10. Confess ourselves genuinely surprised by Tennessee Williams and Gypsy Rose Lee.

The first correct guesser gets a jar of Cherry Republic cherry jelly — because Donna says it’s better than jam.

Or bust.

White CRV, Wisconsin plates, M-22 bumper sticker.
White CRV, Wisconsin plates, M-22 bumper sticker.
As soon as I realized Ruby’s car had been stolen out of my driveway, I wanted to vacuum the living room.

First I wanted to walk the neighborhood, hoping I would see it, sure I would see it parked around the next corner, wheels gone or door open, but there. The thieves would have gotten in and seen the tub of caramel corn in the front passenger seat, the summer tops on hangers, and the Pig Roast or Bust travel book Ruby had made, spiral bound and including section dividers. If they’d paged through it, they would have seen one tab for Fabric Stores between Madison and Alexandria, another tab for Motels, another for Campgrounds, and a Summary page linking the likely stops with approximate travel times between them (MT & Dave’s to Yoders in Shipshewana 2½ hours, Yoders to something in Ohio 3 hours). They would have seen the first bag of fabric from a store in Crystal Lake, and they would have said, “We can’t take this lady’s car. We like the spirit of this lady and we want her to make it to the pig roast.”

But Dave and I walked the neighborhood, as soon as I’d woken him and made him understand that “Ruby’s car is gone” didn’t simply mean she’d left early. As we looked around corners for her familiar car, one we’ve seen every August for the past ten years when we meet up in Michigan for a week, it became clear that what the thieves had actually said was, “1999 CRV, it’s a chopshop favorite. Let’s go.”

The thieves couldn’t know that the pig roast was in honor of Ruby’s first boyfriend, Slim, who died earlier this year. They couldn’t know that Ruby hadn’t been able to make it back east for his funeral, or that a funeral had anyway seemed an odd thing to connect with Slim but the summer pig roast his friends always threw felt like a better place to say goodbye.

When Dave and I got home from our neighborhood search, Ruby had already talked to the police and found a 2pm train for Madison. We offered her our car to continue the trip east but she wanted to get back home and start shopping for a new CRV. I held off on vacuuming until we took her to Union Station, and then I held off again because some other friends were arriving in their rental car from Midway. I wanted to erase the event by vacuuming and then maybe also mopping, but instead I had to say to my other friends, “Did you get rental car insurance?”

When they said no, we had them put their car inside the gate, and we parked ours in front of it.

There were also three bottles of dressing in the CRV, because Ruby’s pig roast task was salads. I believe there was also a Recipes tab in Pig Roast or Bust but I can’t be sure. I only got to see Pig Roast or Bust for a minute, standing on the driveway as Ruby got an overnight bag out of her car, paging through it and marveling at how a drive to DC suddenly seemed short and fun when you looked at it in terms of 2-3 hour fabric store destinations. And marveling at Ruby, who continues to interact with daily living in a way that is unlike anyone else I know yet mostly manages to pass for normal.

I’d almost asked to hold on to Pig Roast or Bust and bring it inside to look at longer, but when Ruby reached for it I knew I’d feel terrible if she ended up forgetting to put it back in the car in the morning. Like the last conversation you don’t get to have with someone you’ve loved, I couldn’t have known there’d be no car to put it back into.

Outrageous fortune

"Nurse, get me the remote and a dog biscuit, STAT."
“No time to focus, this is a dog Martian collar halter biscuit serious EMERGENCY!”

Yesterday Toots came over to watch “Lovejoy” but we ended up watching Slings & Arrows. The temperature in the room changed, as she said, when we learned she’d never seen it. Lovejoy is a fun thing to bond over—our mutual adoration of Ian MacShane, our affection for the Lovejoy world where everyone pretty much just cares about antiques, enough to kill for them, but mostly just enough to look menacing and almost kill until Lovejoy ambles along and saves the day—or, at any rate, when the day gets saved by some ramshackle coincidence. Then they all go to the pub for a pint.

I wanted to make a test batch of chili because contrary to Dana’s email I don’t actually like to make chili. I just thought it would be easy and I know I’ve made it before, and it was good. But I don’t know what recipe I used, and browning the turkey always stresses me out. So I picked a recipe and decided to stick with it exactly and I did mostly, but I always pick the easy version in my online search—Easy Turkey Chili! Easy Thanksgiving Stuffing!—and then scoff as I cook because it doesn’t have enough interesting ingredients. So I add some.

I made the chili and set it to slow cook and then drafted our proposal for a new freelance project and corresponded with the shuttle service who might get me from Redmond airport to the middle of rural Oregon for the residency next April. They are willing to stop at a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s for only fifteen extra bucks. I feel like I’m walking on bubbles, up on top of bubbles, because so many good things have happened lately and this is not where my heart is used to processing emotion. I’m trying to find a way to be calm and wise about it, so that when the many things are rejections and losses and just plain nothings, to which I am more accustomed, I can be just as calm and wise.

Taking a lunch break to read Pam Houston’s Contents May Have Shifted put me on more familiar ground because it made me wonder, God am I just treading her ground with the small stories I’m sharing, only hers are about surviving an Alaskan mudslide whereas mine are about being afraid of ground turkey?

But I set that aside, because I can’t go down that road or I’ll never get to tell you how desperately important it was that Toots and possibly you, if you haven’t, see Slings and Arrows. Standing in the kitchen after she’d arrived, catching up from the week, having a slow drink before the chili, I can’t remember whether it was Dave or me who mentioned something Slings-and-Arrows-related and Toots said, “What’s that?”

And suddenly it was like an emergency operating theater. “What? You’ve never seen it? I think maybe I’ve heard of it. You. You have to. You can’t go another day. Lovejoy is out. But it’s not on Netflix anymore. We’ll find it. Where’s my phone? How do I? Oh, I’ll try the TV.” And then it was on Acorn, and we fixed our bowls, “Come on come on, we’ve got to fit as many episodes in as possible—there are only 18—does everyone have napkins? Okay, go.”

And this makes sense if you are the sort of person who can appreciate both the charm of one show which is really lovely even when it’s awful and the plot points only sort of connect, and the humor and utter seriousness of another that’s constructed of a thousand truthful details that build so cleverly to reveal what is wonderful and awful about loving something so much that it makes a fool and a hero of you, all at the same time.

Day 11: Prairie Island

Nap bench from Day 1
Remember this bench? It hasn’t changed.

When Dave was learning choreography for The Jewels, he started out being able to remember it all in his head. Then he wrote out notes for himself, and suddenly started forgetting things. “I shouldn’t have written it down,” he said at first. But after a few days, the movements were fully back. My theory was that the info started in his front mind, then moved to his back mind, and the brief uncertainty was when it was in transit. That’s how I feel about yesterday. It felt like my being at Ragdale transitioned from the front of my mind to the back.

I know that things happened but I’m not sure in what order. I know I wrote two new scenes, walked in the blackened prairie and into the woods, burst into tears over a character I don’t even like, laughed hysterically with Dave because I started calling him, hung up on the fourth ring, and then sent him one of those auto-response texts saying “Call you later” when he called back immediately. It reminded me of a college friend who said, “I just called to tell you I can’t talk right now. I’m extremely busy.”

I know that I went into town and bought a get-well card for a friend, and walked into and out of some stores without buying anything, and had a great dinner with friends I somehow didn’t know a month ago. I know the night ended with a bunch of us sitting in the living room, writing or reading or in one case shopping for a fridge. But the “at Ragdale” part, which was once front and center, has moved to a different part of my brain.

The other night, we tramped in a group from room to room, “nosing” as one writer put it. There wasn’t much to observe about the writers’ rooms beyond the space itself – “oh you got a private bath” or “I love that chair, desk, view.” In the composer’s studio we got to hear a tiny, tantalizing snippet of one piece. But in the artists’ studios, we could see whole bodies of work – or at least as whole as they are halfway into the month.

I got to see sets of painted surfaces and found objects by one artist, large canvases by another, and heavily textured and painted collages by another. And I thought, so this is their Ragdale. This is what they’ve been doing in the stillness of this place with the maybe not-so-pretentious-after-all “Quiet please, artists at work” sign out front.

That same night, or maybe a different night, I overheard a writer telling someone a favorite quote from Stephen Sondheim, something like “art is not about perfection, it’s about making choices.” In each studio I saw something that seemed to speak directly to me. I know everyone won’t feel that way. Some will love and some will hate and some will ignore them, but each is perfect in its expression of choices or maybe its choice of expressions. The world is more fully realized because they exist.

Day 1: Here

Everything is pretty much blue.
“In particular, lives which had come to a violent end were supposed to carry on a metamorphosed existence in vegetable form.”

I’m unpacked. I’m showered. My stuff is put away. I’m in the Blue Room. Blue fern papered walls. A generous single bed – is it a TWIN? does that MEAN something? – with a chenille bedspread, white flowers proud of the pale blue background.

I can hear a man’s voice, across the hall or downstairs, on the phone or having a live conversation with someone whose voice is too soft to hear. I’ve already hunted for how to turn off the startup chime on my Mac because the handbook says not to talk on your cell phone in your room, in respect or I guess out of respect for the other guests. I’ve learned I’d have to buy an app or use some free Japanese app that I don’t really trust. I don’t trust free.

My desk is in a wide, shallow alcove filled with windows. I have a beautiful view of the prairie, and the amphitheater, if that’s what it’s called, an open white proscenium structure in the middle of a clearing.

I have a desk with a thick leather deskpad, at the top of which is a wooden pen rest. I’ve set a pen in it. The desk has a rolling task chair with lumbar support, the only modern-looking thing in this room. And probably the only thing I wouldn’t have chosen, because it’s not “charming” like everything else. But as soon as I sat down to look up silencing my chime I was grateful to whoever put it here. It has become charming due to its comfort and wheels. It is blue.

There’s a French door leading to a screened porch, with a couple of wicker chairs, a writing table, and a chaise that will be perfect for naps if it gets warm enough. I share it with someone in another room, but there’s a wooden screen in the middle, so we can each have our own half-porch.

There’s a mission-style rocker and a mission-style easy chair. There are built-in bookcases, painted white like the trim. On most of the shelves are half-lengths of books. Poetry and novels and reference. The Dictionary of Symbols. Spain. To these, I’ve added four binders of works in progress, some random journals from the past few years, where I hope to find ideas if I run out, and my diary from 1974. Also an old translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that was my dad’s.

Also there’s a perfect little bathroom with a huge pedestal sink and a glass shower stall. Also, a roomy closet with lots of extra hooks. A dresser, of course. A nightstand, of course. A couple of framed prints that you’ll be glad to know I’ve straightened.

Dave drove me here this afternoon, with Django in tow. The idea was to drop off my stuff and then walk through the prairie. But when we got to the prairie entrance, there was a sign: “Closed until May 2.” Something about plants needing to grow and mud. So we  walked back to the car and they went home. I found out later, at the orientation, that we are allowed to walk there if we are careful not to don’t disturb the plants. Maybe they’ll come back.