Archives for category: Home

I did a wonderful poetry course recently, on solitary spaces (Coffee-House Poetry). A particularly relevant theme for these times, but solitude is generally either central or just slightly peripheral to my field of vision most of the time. The challenging thing for me right now is that the solitude hasn’t been of my choosing. Hitherto, the solitary place was somewhere I willingly and gladly chose to spend time.

Here are some of the poems I during the course.

Untitled

I

In my room on the nineteenth floor I

no longer look down, but up. And fly.

II

That hour when all the city’s noise fades

and I yearn for the non-muted life.

III

It has been four days now since

I saw the mouse. I miss him. Or her.

 

On never waking up

I don’t hold with dreams.

But I remember this one, even now, many years later.

The apocalypse happened.

You and I were oceans apart and would never meet again.

We continued to connect in the cyber world.

Onscreen, I could see your face.

And hear your voice.

But I could not touch you.

Could not reach out and feel the warmth of your skin.

That hand.

Those freckles.

 

The heart breaks and breaks and breaks

“Where all the ladders start”

WB Yeats

 

As I place a foot on the first step

I pause and look to where I’m going

wondering what it might feel like to arrive.

It was a dare, no?

A test of sorts.

And a trick, too,

every ladder leading to another.

 

Here, I am

Too little has been said

of the door, its one

face turned to the night’s

downpour and its other

to the shift and glisten of the firelight.

from The Door by Charles Tomlinson

I don’t have a fireplace, but the power of Tomlinson’s words resonates. My door demarcates a space, both physically and metaphorically, and the shutting of it announces my entry into somewhere safe, certain, and unchanging.

Here, I am alone and untethered.

Since leaving early morning, I have spent the day with others. Now, I—gladly—return to aloneness. Yet am I truly alone? I am not with another person for sure, but I am with me. I am totally present to myself in this sanctum, this liminal space, akin to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “intermediate space”, where yesterday has vanished and tomorrow has not yet emerged.

This place of pause is my refuge. It is where my solitude is a choice and a preference.

As soon as I enter, there are rituals. I take off my shoes, change my clothes, and shower. As if all of the outside must remain there and not contaminate this inner world. I choose some music. A record, because I love the physicality and deliberateness of placing needle on vinyl to create sound, and the necessity of flipping to continue the joy of listening.

It is a minimalist home. Lack of clutter intensifies its reassurance. Recently, I bought a mirror. Floor to ceiling. As I walk by, I catch a glimpse of my movement in the reflection. Witnessing myself, I stop, and whisper “Oh, hello, there you are. Welcome.”

 

CQ

Home

Two years ago, May 1, 2018, I moved from London to New York. New York is an exciting city, full of possibilities. Every day there feels like an adventure.

The move marked my first time living alone. It was an interesting, slightly scary, and ultimately liberating challenge. With no one else to please, I had almost complete freedom setting up my home in my new city.

All my life, or so it seemed to me, I had dreamt of living in a New York style loft. It took me a little while to find this dream place. But I did eventually find it in Brooklyn.

I took my time setting it up, determined to minimally fill the space, and only with things that I loved.

chair

It was stressful at the beginning, getting my head around how another country functions and operates, but it was fun, too, creating something that had my stamp on it, a spatial environment where I felt safe, happy, and hopeful.

I even commissioned some art work—the artist was given the remit to imagine me in different environments that reflected my life and desires: the sea, my veganism, and movies. And thus the triptych that I love was created.

Art pieces

I eventually also got a cello and a piano. The space began to feel complete, even more so when I hosted regular recitals in my home.

416

My daughter visited me in New York, and I travelled back several times, either to Newcastle where she is studying or to London, to see her. But, it bothered me throughout that we were living on different continents. A few months ago, I had a nightmare that the apocalyse happened and she and I could never meet again. And so, when COVID-19 arrived, it felt as if my nightmare was about to come true. In March this year, I hurriedly left NYC, leaving everything behind, anxious to be back in the UK while that journey was still possible.

And now, May 1, 2020, here I am in London. The lease on my NYC apartment has just come up for renewal and I have declined. There are too many uncertainties and it feels as if London is where I need to be, at least for the medium term. Working remotely throughout these past couple of months has proven how possible it is to do my job from here.

I miss my place and my space. In due course, I will sort out accommodation in London, but it won’t be my NYC loft. As someone who isn’t particularly attached to material things, I wonder why I feel so sad at the thought of never again seeing the home I created there. It’s a kind of grieving, which of course extends beyond the physical construct. I am missing my life as it was, the routines, the people, the interactions, the stuff that tethered me.

Solitude isn’t such a problem, although up to now it was of my choosing rather than being imposed. In this current liminal space of suspended time and eerie quietness, I hover and fluctuate between acceptance and rage. I also bask in nostalgia but try not to succumb to it. This is a new world, there will be a new order of things, and I need to let go of a past that is already approaching the quality of an illusion.

As always, I have been reading Larkin. This poem seems particularly apposite.

Home is so Sad

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,

Shaped to the comfort of the last to go

As if to win them back. Instead, bereft

Of anyone to please, it withers so,

Having no heart to put aside the theft

 

And turn again to what it started as,

A joyous shot at how things ought to be,

Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:

Look at the pictures and the cutlery.

The music in the piano stool. That vase.

 

Philip Larkin