Displaced in my own corner


One thing about scaling down to a smaller home — all space is shared space.

Each person has his or her own things within the confines of a house: hopes, dreams, projects and clutter. All of which are held close and called sacred.

“I just want my own space, a place where I can hide away from the noise of the house.”

My son said, “You have a whole house. What about your aqua desk in your bedroom?”

“It’s next to the television. When your dad watches TV, I can’t concentrate on my Greek. I need a bigger space in order to spread out. I have lots of Greek books.”

“You have your desk upstairs.”

“Yes, but that desk is dwarfed by your dad’s hunting paraphernalia. There is a bearskin on the wall, a stuffed goose flying overhead, and a wall-mounted wild boar behind me with its mouth open ready to pounce. Then there are all those deer and elk horns, and duck and turkey feathers scattered about. I share my office with your dad’s gun cabinet, which is dressed in finer furs than me.”

My Sweet Al seems to light everywhere I land. For the past 12 years, I have created and written under a cloud of dead animals overhead. My friend who stayed in the loft said she couldn’t sleep because there were eyes looking down at her all night. As for Al, he likes to sit up in the loft and dream about a once-served meal as he dishes up a hunting story or two.

While cleaning out a storage shed to free up some space, I ran across an old dirty buffalo hide. Al immediately asserted, “It is worth $900. We need to drape it over the stair railing so we can appreciate it.”

My Sweet Al is still moping around over my response. Although we have learned how to co-habitat over the years, I had to give Al an ultimatum. “Either I put my foot down on that hide, or I’m kicking one.”

Moving back into peacekeeping mode, I know that it is important to be open-minded about the things of the people we love. What others find of value is paramount to them. What we do or say about it, although impactful to others, is only meaningful to us.

In the same way that I need to be surrounded by my literary and reference library, my Sweet Al needs to be surrounded by those things that inspire him. And while these “things” may only provide feel-good moments, they can be purposeful in transporting us to a place few others understand.

I don’t see the need to stalk an elk in the forest or to be able to call down birds from the heavens. But for my Sweet Al, this lifts him high in the sky then drops him into a field of dreams.

I wrote the following words 10 years ago. If only I had known then just how much they appeal to my understanding of others.

“I believe that as artists and writers, we sometimes find ourselves elsewhere, untethered or even on the edge of something great. Something we may not be able to even speak about, yet with feelings that are very real.”

At the time, I was struggling to respect the creative gift that was developing within me. Today, these words still ring true as I try to find some floor space that I can call my own. I’m not asking for much, just my own space to be me, a place to store all of the hopes and dreams that I carry in my heart. Such a double-edged sword when your partner in life is doing the same.

We do not always know the why in what others hold on to. In fact, we may be discovering things today that we didn’t know we were holding on to ourselves. Things that are part of our DNA or our history, some we can’t even explain, yet frustrates us about others.

It has taken me a lifetime to feel “placed” in who I am as an artist and writer. It’s a place that doesn’t always calculate with the practical-minded person who is trying to make sense of their own life. Suddenly, the last 60 years make perfect sense.

Final brushstroke: There is a saying, “Stay true to your art.” Maybe I made that more exclusive than I should have. Perhaps a better way of saying it is, “Be true to who you are … all of us.” While part of our life’s mission is learning how to live in the fullness of who we are, that doesn’t mean we ignore or displace those who are learning to live in the fullness of who they are. Although, I am still looking for at least one undiscovered corner to call my own.

Readers’ comments

Send your comment to betty@bettyslade.com.