One day when I was in the depths of my recent shingles attack, I set up the double bed that spends most of its life folded inside a convertible sofa in the downstairs guest room. I
I put on a blue fitted bottom sheet, stacked some pillows against the back, and folded a crocheted afghan across the bottom. Then I lay down, exhausted, and closed my eyes. Bisou came streaking into the room, took a flying leap and landed beside me, and gave a big sigh. I sighed too, a sigh not of pain or discomfort or boredom, but of contentment. I had solved the bed-and-Bisou problem.
Knowing the limits of a spouse\’s tolerance helps to keep a marriage going, and in the case of my particular spouse Bisou\’s body on the conjugal bed is beyond those limits. In normal times, Wolfie and Bisou sleep on their own bed at night, on the floor next to my side of things. During the day, I do my reading or writing or napping or mindless staring into space on various sofas and chairs where Bisou and I can be in close bodily contact.
But when the shingles hit, I was too sick to sit on a chair or even recline on a sofa. I needed to be in bed, but I also needed my comfort spaniel. Hence the recourse to the guest bed during the day.
I\’m feeling better now–today I even did the laundry–but I\’m still spending a lot of time on the guest room bed. I have the phone nearby, and a cup of lemon balm tea from the lemon balm jungle at the back door. A good lamp on either side of the bed, and a view of the trees turning russet along the driveway. Also my Kindle, for when I get tired of writing. And when I get tired of reading I can close my eyes and subside against the pillows, one hand on Bisou\’s silky back.
Compared to this, the living room, the sun porch, and my study, have come to seem pretty spartan. In those rooms you cannot flow seamlessly from snoozing to reading to writing and back again. You have to make an executive decision about what you\’re going to do and where you\’re going to do it, and then you have to get up and implement it. It\’s a vertical kind of existence, and I am really getting fond of the horizontal.
The tradition of writing in bed is a long and honorable one. Before central heating, lots of writers wrote in bed, for practical reasons. But even in the twentieth century, when houses became more comfortable, Proust, Edith Wharton, Mark Twain, George Orwell and Truman Capote all took to bed in order to write.
Why is that? It\’s possible that the bed evokes a less formal and therefore less intimidating feeling than the hard, flat, cold surface of a desk. In bed, you can just scribble and jot, whereas at a desk, you have to WRITE.
And perhaps the bed, with its softness and warmth, its invitation to recline and even to close the eyes, offers a physical conduit to that dreamy state in which the internal critic retreats and the poor neglected subconscious comes out to play.
Just curious: how many of you like to write in bed?