For several years I have been attempting to embrace what I know to be true. Having less stuff creates more room for living.
If you take a look at my desk you can see just how well my de-accession has gone. Not well. Still when push back my chair and take a look there are things I love and things I laugh at. There are actual and aspirational objects, and there is a map of my life.
In addition to the metaphoric map there is a physical map. It is the artist block print of Denver neighborhoods in orange. Next to it, out of sight of my work area hangs Steve’s map of Denver. It is one of those gas station maps unfolded and pinned to the wall. It has streets and direction and all sorts of information for navigating. Like, you know, a map. My map is pretty, and it depicts what makes a city to me. Not roads and traffic patterns but neighborhoods and people.
Above the desk I have a shelf with tax information. You have to take my word for it because it has its back to me. Or more accurately I have my back to it. Then, because I am super generous and they have such symmetrical spines I house Steve’s beer advocate magazines. Next to them is 5280 and Modern in Denver. The issue that featured our kitchen. I felt proud at the time of the photo shoot but in the end it comes out as a mass of grey. In real life it is our stuff that that creates color and texture. For the photos we stripped it down. And stripped it of soul.
Next to the organizers are a Jonathan Adler vase with an almost dead succulent. Sometimes I remember to water it. Luckily it is pretty forgiving. The succulents are all over the house because I was thoroughly convinced by the Modern Bohemian book that I need succulents. I was less convinced about the macrame but I have to say as time goes on I consider it. There are two tarnished silver trophies from my Grandfather’s days as national bridge champion. Or maybe something less than that. I like to think he was national champion but I don’t really have proof. I know he was head of the world bridge association and played with Omar Shariff. But these trophies celebrate the 1960s National Men’s pairs champion (that sounds a lot like a national champion to me) and the North Line Championship. No date, no place. Sort of like the mirror behind them. I don’t remember its provenance (10 dollar word gained from being the child of an art collector) but I can tell you I have dragged it to 14 houses and never found a place that it looked it. Here it is fine and does the job of reflecting light from the sliding doors into our side yard. It also reflects my greasy hair as I take the picture of the desk for this post but lets not focus on that. There is a clock. It is silver. It is always 9:04. In my life that means AM because 9:04 PM finds me in bed.
Below that on the right hand side of the desk you can find my cool vintage flip calendar. It is only 14 days behind, so soon it will turn the corner and bring us closer to the correct date. It is totally manual so I can change it any time…but I haven’t so there it is. There is a modern clock that would theoretically work if I put in batteries but we are long on clocks in this room so I let it sit there timeless. The reason it stays is because I like the way it looks with the calendar which I legitimately love and the black and white photo. I always place things in threes. I don’t try to. It just happens. The photo is one of my favorites. I’m just sort of there but my family is their truest selves. Oliver is joyous, Leo is fierce without seeming scary (plus, stick) and Steve sees the humor in it all. We are sitting in front of Lake Champlain where we had fires and sunk boats for so many years. I’d say that I miss us but we are still just like that. Even without the lake in the background.
Then there are the books. For the most part they are aspirational. Someday I imagine I will sit down with tea and read about “Good Prose” instead of people renovating houses. There are two exceptions though. The Vivian Gornick book, The Situation and the Story is a touchstone for getting back to basics. I recommend it highly. My friend Ruth Franklin wrote an incredible biography of Shirley Jackson that blends writing and motherhood, mental health and drinking and Vermont. Its like someone made a cocktail of my interests and served it up in an intellectual but approachable way. The rest I will get to. They will wait here for me. In the meantime I will play with the Sånd. It is the absolute best meditative distraction. I squish it and fill that weird hole in my fist (sounds odd but I bet some of you know what I mean) I dab at it to collect the bits into a perfectly squishy ball. I think about how much it looks like brown sugar. I do not eat it. Its possible you might need Sånd. (Other books if you want to read and review for me. Stephen King on Writing, Anne Lamott bird by bird, Tracy Kidder Good Prose, Annie Dillard The Writing Life.)
My desk itself is Paul Mccobb. He is a mid century designer who specialized in pottery and furniture. We have a set of coffee cups. I sold my favorite piece of his back when I thought I would be a vintage small ware dealer. It is a plate with the words “The quiet woman” on it, and then there is a picture of a headless woman. Its both gross and politically incorrect. The desk is a heavy solid maple that someone bastardized and painted a bold blue. I love the blue. The chairs that came with it are at our house in Vermont. I love the split set. I bought the table at my favorite vintage shop. If you are ever in Vermont you need to go there. And go back because even more than TJMaxx it is NEVER the same place twice.
Beneath the table is a giant tray that my aunt made out of a vintage drawer. She lined it with what is actually one of my favorite patterns of paper. I have a notebook set in three colors with the same motif. It gets dragged out and loaded up with homework and paper and staplers until it gets too full to manage and then it is cleaned off and stored again. The cycle of life and all.
On the left I have the useless stuff. Or maybe more of the useless stuff. There is the orange rotary phone. This phone is like the mirror in that it has never found a home. So it sits on my desk making me feel good and bad. I like orange (obviously) and I love to remember standing squeezed between my mothers bed and bedside tables running through numbers as quickly as I can. Sometimes I dial my childhood phone number from Newton and marvel at my muscle memory. Yet it also represents the exact kind of item that can be a burden. It has flown in suitcases to and from Florida. I have had to use a Q tip to get rid of drywall dust. I have dropped it on my toe and heard it ring out as I yelped in protest. I’m not quite sure about the phone. I enjoy its typed phone number. The internet tells me it is a from the University of Wisconsin Eu Claire. If I talked on the phone I might call the number to see where things went. But not using that phone of course. It is plugged into nothing. In the threesome with the phone are two glass vase/pitcher things. They also are some vintage designer. I would like more of them but they are more expensive than they look. Then, of course, I have the miniature Panton chair. You too could have this chair for 13 dollars. I got it in a set of five. The vitra models come in a sliding wood box which is very satisfying. I put the red white and black ones together in the living room and somehow ditched the blue one which doesn’t come match any of my color schemes. The yellow stays with me.
The mug in the picture is my absolute favorite. It is a deep purple (not the black that it looks in the picture) and has a large handle and matte finish. It is from Bennington Potters in Vermont and I drink tea from it every morning. At least at 9:04. You can buy it here but not my purple color. Now I am super paranoid about dropping it. I have the blue as well but this one is the one. I’m sure you know what I mean.
In fact I have a long history with these chairs. This is Leo modeling a pair of kids sized chairs. I imagine the model, the kids size and the full size together and I love it. Until I consider the utility of the threesome. Low.
Then last and possibly least I have my work. I have a computer. Apple. I have my phone which is named Anna’s big huge enormous iPhone 7. My iPad mini (which I have stopped using since I got the huge enormous 7) I also have my new, pricy and incomparable Bose noise canceling headphones. I didn’t know how much I needed them until I had them. So much. The best thing about them is their sound and lack of sound. Music seeps deep into my synapses. And ambient noise is softened and soothing. Steve says everytime I put them on I smile. I believe it. When I turn them on a voice that reminds my of my meditation guide says “now pairing with anna’s big huge enormous iPhone.” Somehow she has it slightly wrong (she might be related to Siri) So she says “Pairing with Anna’s big hug e enourmouse.” And stops there. I have not always been pro hug but as my ears are cushioned and my mind is soothed it does in fact feel that she is pairing me with a hug.
So that is my desk.
Sometimes I even work at it.
Tell me about your stuff…