Waking up for the first time in our new place, I felt a strange relief. I hadn’t realized how much you feel owned when you have a landlord. Slipping out of the bed while it’s still dark, vague shapes that eventually resolve into unpacked boxes lurk in the shadows. They mean me no harm. I go downstairs. Downstairs! Without revealing too much personal information here, I can say that I’ve always believed in sleeping upstairs. In our several apartments my wife and I have lived on one floor. Going to sleep meant walking down the hall into another room. It lacked proper transition. When we looked at houses it took some time before I could put my finger on it—we needed a two-story house. You go “up to bed” for a reason.
The thing about writing is that it’s an activity of habit. Not aware of the location of light switches yet, I shuffle slowly through my own personal towers of Babel. Find the coffee maker. Where do I go to write? Not wanting to wake my wife, I decide it should be downstairs. There’s the study, with its desk. Seems pretty obvious. Mug in hand, with no lights on, instinct drives me back to my usual chair in the living room. Habits are seldom planned. They happen. I’ve become used to writing electronically, but as I wanted badly to explain to the movers, I grew up writing on paper. Writers are readers and there are two things you don’t throw away—books and your old writings. Carpenters don’t ditch saws and hammers just because they’re heavy and numerous. There’s a kind of religious devotion here.
Don’t worry, I’ll soon be back to my more abstract topics on this blog. Religion and all that. Right now I’m in a transition and I’m wondering that if that means I’m now officially grown up. If so, does that mean abandoning my childhood dream of being a writer and facing the fact that all these boxes were moved in vain? Not having food in our new place, our first day we went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. The locals were talking. Their concerns? Lawn care and propane. Everyday things. Clean-cut and suntanned, they can tell at a glance that I’m a stranger with my unkempt hair and prophetic beard. Is my writing fantasy just childhood gone to seed? No. Books and writings are my identity. The movers may have mixed them in with saucepans and power tools, but I know at a glance which boxes contain books. Soon they will be in every room of this house. That will make anywhere feel like home, even if I can’t find the lights.