Monday, January 14, 2008

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

I am sure it is from those days I spend in my room that I take the belief that the best of life is life lived quietly, where nothing happens but our calm journey through the day, where change is imperceptible and the precious life is everything.

What I call my home is really a compact room, a studio apartment. I had begun by attempting a very simple and exorcising decor, all wood and white walls; but the fashionable Finnish starkness I first tried to impose on it was inadequate to house the possessions I had acquired and continue to acquire in my travels through life. I introduced clutter, then more clutter, the odd print or lithograph that took my fancy, pieces of colonial furniture picked up in local shops as well as furniture I had assembled from mail-order kits, including a shaker table that ingenuously passes for an antique. A green-shaded banker's lamp sits atop the tabl

One day I had disinterred an old print of Beethoven from my apartment building's trash room where some tenant had relegated it, and cleaned it up and placed in a new frame. It now hangs over two low, two-shelf bookcases, disapprovingly grave, one of those portraits whose eyes seem to follow you everywhere. I had turned a deaf ear to the occasional visitor's horror of the thing. As a painting it was certainly not good enough to occupy a place of honor, and not quite bad enough to be amusing; which hardly represented its subject's true worth. But I had come to feel affectionate about the unremitting sterness of that gaze; and there were family relics I had reinstated, a small statue of a Chinese horse, a replica of an ancient artifact from one or other Chinese dynasty and miniature busts: one of Benjamin Franklin made of iron, presumably, that I had owned since boyhood and one of Richard Wagner in alabaster.

The room would not please an art director, but it feels like a home. Two large cases contain my abundant book collection, acquired over a lifetime's reading. A dark-blue wing-back chair that looks fittingly old, upholstered in naugahyde comes passably close to resembling leather. Eakins prints depicting skullers on the Schuylkill River cover one wall. Thomas Eakins is a particular favorite of mine. Both Eakins and I are alumni of The Central High School of Philadelphia. My crammed quarters house my worldly possessions and suitably reflect my eclectic temperament; the clutter adequately projects the image of tasteful collecting but is anything but garish or exotic. The room suggests its tenant's intellectual bent and reverence for the past.

Daily routine is the root of our being, and this room is the arena of my earthly passage. The room has a nostalgic glow, as if life were best understood in the episodic rhythms of daylight and darkness.

1 comment:

Evydense said...

Your description soothes me. Although I have no image of either you or your room, I can picture it clearly as if I were sitting there in your place listening to Mozart, hypnotized by rivulets of rain coursing down the window glass, and continuously pondering "what next", or "why now?".

I've said before, it's probably not healthy to be envious of another's talents; appreciating them should be sufficient. But you are such a master with words, I can't help but infuse mine with a small tinge of green around the edges.

Cheers! This one's to you!