Writing Downtown, An Uncommon Office

November 17, 2013

Maybe the lovely space felt too good for me. Maybe my expectations burst forth with too much zest like a tree growing through the ceiling. Maybe I wanted to share my wide Peru interests with a wider interest in my new and beautiful State, Vermont. So shortly I moved out of my home office (though not out of the house!) I found an alternate for writing, in downtown Burlington, on Saint Paul Street looking into the  Burlington City Hall Park. Friday mornings I parked for most of the day in one of those diagonal spaces where I could look into the park, at everything that remained in place and everything that moved. Park statues stood upright for pigeons to perch on their caps or outstretched arms. Kids played hide and seek in the park, workers on lunch breaks moved with determination on the diagonal park paths, dogs fetched their sticks, and owners bent to mop up doodoes.

in office

Fridays my pencil was my little bird, tweeting for me to conjure memories of my many stays in Peru, stories, tidbits of poems and many another thought or expression. Some inspiration arose from the fecundity of life outside the car’s front window. I later won a prize for my poem “Woman Feeding Pigeons” about a homeless woman given day-old French bread sticks by a kind man at the nearby bakery. She broke that bread into raw hunks to feed the wild pigeons that came flying to her calls. When I did my jottings for the poem I felt in touch with the truth we really do know, that true joy lies, even for a tattered and homeless woman, in the act of giving.

My downtown office was no secret to my husband, family or friends who frequently asked about events I saw outside my car windows and the adventures experienced on my weekly writing day.

My laptop, I left it at home. I’m a tactile person. It’s a joy to feel the pencil in my hand. I even relish the constant fiddling to keep the point sharp and powerful before it anoints a precious blank page. It’s a prized ritual to open and hand-write in a substantial manila Harvard notebook. I bought these notebooks in bulk when we lived in Massachusetts. I’ve never since found any as satisfying, the thin lines, and the touch of crisp non-flimsy paper. I still order my notebooks from Cambridge (Bob Slate’s is still in business.) Now I first paste one of my husband’s photographs on top of the Harvard lettering so no one will have to say, “What gives with the Harvard?”  Memories of our times in Cambridge, hidden under an equally precious Vermont image.

Last year I was evicted from my downtown office, due to city remodeling and road construction. I moved back to my beautiful first floor home-office with the mountain view. But why had I not noticed the mess of materials collected from my too-many projects, files for this website (needing work,) sundry notes and requests. Answer ASAP. Deadline next month. Need I say more of what it’s like if, even for while, you pile, not file. Besides I was moving from notebook to laptop, sometimes using both. My stories were turning to Peru, to the lives of Inca children and families. The work of drafts and finishing had to be done on the screen and in my car, even if relocated, toting my laptop felt like bringing my retriever to work, too awkward a device to control in cramped automotive space.