In Barcelona, when I was nine years old, the German nuns in charge of my education used to assign ten long-division problems every night. That is a lot of problems at any age, and I would sit for what seemed like hours at my little desk until finally, in despair, I would fill in some random numbers to make it look like I\’d at least tried.
Ever since then, I have hated to sit at a desk. I wrote my high school term papers reclining on my bed, and sweated out my dissertation on the living room rug of our married students apartment, index cards crammed full of data fanned out all around me. Especially when writing, I love a change of scene. In this respect, the laptop has been a godsend, allowing me to write in the garden in summer, by the stove in winter, and in bed in all seasons. I am awaiting the invention of a gizmo that will plug into my brain and type out my thoughts as I think them, anytime, anywhere, without need of fingers or batteries.
Most of the posts on this blog have been written in my study, a cell-like room in the second-floor, northwest corner of the house. The best thing about this modest space is its three windows with their views of hills and woods and fields, a kind of weather station that allows me to check if a storm is coming in, which way the wind is blowing, and whether the driveway is snowy, icy, muddy or navigable. Unfortunately the room is quite small, but when we moved in I crammed into it a desk top supported by two file cabinets, a desk chair, a bookcase, a drawing table, a table to hold art supplies, a low cobbler\’s bench (our former coffee table in the married students apartment), and my writing spot: a single bed topped with six pillows of various sizes and shapes.
To write I would sit cross-legged in front of the laptop, which was itself perched on a pillow that wobbled with each key-stroke. When I needed to change position, I would like back against the pillows, the laptop on my belly, and curl up in a semi-crunch to reach the keyboard. This was good for my abs, but not my concentration. And there was always Bisou, with her DNA-inscribed compulsion to be on my lap, fighting for space with the computer.
This has been my circumstance for the last eight years, and I hope by now you are feeling very, very sorry for me. But you can save your pity for the victims of wars and natural disasters, because I am typing this post in an ergonomic paradise, my just-acquired comfy chair. It is a real armchair, with matching ottoman, which I found in a real furniture store–not in Vermont, of course, but over the border in that other state with all the stores and malls and those unfortunate billboards.
It was my first visit to a furniture store in about thirty years, and I was shocked to find that everything seemed to be designed for obese McMansion dwellers. I wandered for a long time among gatherings of XXXL sofas, recliners, chairs and chaises longues, trying to imagine the race of giants that might buy them. Eventually I came upon a human-sized, elegant and comfortable leather chair from Italy that I almost bought, until I realized that there was no room on it for both Bisou and me, and therefore held no hope of peace or concentration.
I finally settled on something that I thought Bisou would approve of–a chair and ottoman upholstered in pale brown-and-white ticking. It allows room for my elbows as I type and for Bisou\’s hips as well as mine, and is comfortable enough for the occasional nap.
In my newly arranged study now the comfy chair and ottoman are placed on a diagonal, giving me a lovely west-north-east view. The drawing table is gone (one must make choices). The phone and computer on the cobbler\’s bench are at hand\’s reach, and Bisou has found her spot on the ottoman, next to my leg.
The ostensible reason behind the purchase of the comfy chair is to increase my writing output. But I am not fooled. Whether lying on that now discarded studio bed or snuggled in the embrace of the comfy chair, it\’s still just me and the words.