Yesterday’s social media explosion on the Badlands National Park twitter account gone rogue reminds us about the value of the spaces we inhabit and the places we take for granted. Our sense of place, and the attention we give it, defines who we were and gives insight into who we are. Whether you think of the world on a large or small scale, place–and our relationship to it–is paramount.
For the past few months, I have been compiling and editing a fourth anthology of work by the writers at Harwood Place on exactly this theme. Entitled Inside | Outside, this year’s collection of stories and poems honors the idea of place both inside and outside, from the shelves of a room called “the den” to temporary living quarters in the barn, from a camping excursion as seen through tiny eyes to the fauna and flora dressings on a patio. While the anthology isn’t available to purchase in bookstores, we share it among friends, family, and fellow Harwood Place residents at a special Reading. The contributors for Inside | Outside will showcase their work from the podium this Saturday, January 28th, at 2pm.
To give you a taste of what you will hear if you attend, I welcome Mary Lewis to the blog. Mary has been a regular in the writing group for several years now, and her work always delights me. A former children’s librarian, she knows the power of words, and her pieces often hint at the playful side of a good story. Here, she writes about the intricacies of a treasured room.
My Favorite “Then” and “Now” Room
By Mary Lewis
Currently my favorite room is a diminished version of my favorite room in the home where we lived for fifty-six years. We called that space “the den,” a curious word, as defined by Webster: “the lair of a wild animal, a comfortable, usually secluded room, a subdivision of a cub scout pack.” Harwood’s floor plan calls it the second bedroom. I declare it a Den, happily opening its hide-a-bed to welcome guests when they arrive.
Expanded by a mirrored wall, which is opposite the windows, this small room on the sixth floor is always filled with sky wonders–storms and colors and mist and darkness and changing moon shapes. I can add music to the environment or just keep it absolutely quiet. It’s the right place for a pen and a clipboard to journal or to follow a writing group prompt. There’s a globe to spin and speculate and a modest TV screen tucked on its own shelf on the bookshelves along the wall. Books which were boxed for the Harwood move are survivors, culled for another read. More recent titles pop up in other rooms.
Ledges and corners in the den call out “these are a few of my favorite things!” Many of them are carved pieces. A parade of guinea hens marches across a shelved collection of books from Zimbabwe and Namibia. Two small human figures make eye contact in conversation. She was carved in Quebec, and he in Central America. I like the profile of their faces. Another carver had shaped a large tagua nut until it became a parrot in simulated ivory. There’s a gourd from Peru with a carved border of llamas, and a plump Baboushka doll hiding her children until a squeaky twist will set them free for their line-up. The paintings on the walls were brushed by artist friends, and the wide window valence was cut from the Batik fabric of a tablecloth.
The Den–it still says heart and warmth, comfort and contemplation. Creativity. And I like it because it’s small and takes you by surprise, down the hall and to the left.
Come hear Mary and the other Harwood Place Writers read on Saturday, January 28th, at 2pm: 8220 Harwood Avenue, Wauwatosa, WI. You’ll leave feeling lifted and inspired.