The Guardian book section publishes a series on “writers’ rooms” augmented by the occasional illustrator and composer tossed in for good measure.
The series is as informative in detailing the creative manners of the individuals profiled as is about the creative spaces. Creatives tend to function best in certain defined environments—a personal combination of time and space. We nurture our space in the same way we nurture our work.
After reading these personal accounts of rooms, I sit here looking at my writing space. Actually, this is one of two spaces. This first, the primary space, is upstairs in my house. In front of a massive window, I placed an old kitchen table with a plain plank fir top. The window runs across the wall and joins a large single pane French door on the right opening to a small balcony. My desk holds several stacks of seemingly unsorted papers, little talismans that to the casual observer would appear to be more junk than holding any significant meaning. A couple of journals. Actually in counting right now, there are five journals and three small notebooks sitting on the table. A ten-inch tall verdigris cast bronze Thai Buddha sits on the right hand corner. On the left corner sit two used Freshies paper coffee cups waiting to be re-used as road cups. A save-the-date card with two happy faces for a wedding this coming summer. A CD of photos recording the moving of the old press into a final work place. A stapler. A roll of scotch tape. A phone number is taped to the window mullion. Next to the window on the wall, two quotes are taped.
The first is Gary Snyder
“poetry. . .the skilled and inspired use of the voice and language to embody rare and powerful states of mind that are in immediate origin personal to the singer, but at deep levels common to all who listen.”
The second reads, “Poets are the soldiers that liberate words from the steadfast possession of definition.” Eli Khamarov.
The window creates my space in actuality. Sitting at this table, I watch from Mt. Hosmer to the ski hill. The sweep lies, falls across my desk—the Sisters, Mt. Fernie, the Three Bears up in Island Lake, and finally FAR.
On a day like this, I only see the lower forested slopes broken by avalanche chutes and little else. The hill erased by a welcome combination of heavy snow and low clouds. Most of my life, I’ve spent a substantial portion of each day outside. This window brings the outside in while allowing me to write.
The bulk of my work occurs here.
Later today I will ski. I will join the view.
My second place serves as a “change the view” more for polishing pieces. In the final stages of a longer piece, I drag my laptop down to the living room. Curling up on one of the two couches in front of the fireplace, I physically and mentally leave my other projects upstairs and work on the final draft of the piece at hand.
Often at the very end of my editing, I will take a printed draft and head downtown for a cup of coffee. Coffee in front of me and pencil in hand, I run through the piece one final time.
This introspective look at personal space brought me to think of our public spaces and how we define our lives by both the private spaces and the public spaces we inhabit.
In truth, the public spaces we choose define our community. Our community in who we casually meet. With whom we converse. And whom we carry in our lives outside of the home.
Take a few.
FAR is open and with it, the Griz Bar. The Griz defines the classic spirit of skiing with a striking lack of modernity while infusing everyone who walks in the door with an infectious love of the outdoors, of skiing/boarding. Walk in after two or three this afternoon and the Griz will be filling with tired, invigorated skiers. We’ve had days of snow and most of the mountain has been closed as patrol tried to stabilize the never-ending accumulations. Today ropes will be dropping and the Griz will echo with tales of first and second and third tracks down favorite pitches. Of falls and of face shots. Of finding 20 turns of unbroken snow just beyond One Two Three in the trees. Beer and nachos will flow, for that is the character of the Griz. Skiing. Beer. Nachos. All embellished by classic Lange chick posters, skis we can no longer imagine turning and a long wooden slab of a table occasionally supporting a passing naked body.
There are other bars. The Corner Pocket. The Pub. Bull Dogs. The Fernie. The Central. The Brickhouse. The Picnic.
In the end, the bar we seek becomes the “Cheers” of choice. The social grouping creating the most comfortable space. Where Norm sits at the end of the bar answering fully the niggling questions in the back of our head.
Look at the day. The time between breakfast and that end-of-the-day-skiing beer. Look at the coffee shops in town. For a little burg, we offer a plethora of choices. From Timmy’s, A&W, MacDonald’s for the chains, to the homegrown local coffee houses lying scattered like jacks across downtown. There’s Cincott Farms on the highway. A thriving branch of the Hosmer organic farm. Both a coffee shop and a fine restaurant, they will expand over the next few months. In the old downtown, there is Freshies, Mugshots, Sweet Surrender, the Tea House, Big Bang Bagels and another to-be-named rumored chocolate-coffee roaster-coffee shop opening across from the Livery building.
All seem to do well filling a social niche of their own making. There are days I want to read a paper and I head to Freshies. Other days, I want to be left alone and drop into the Tea House curling into one of the overstuffed chairs in the window by the fireplace. Other days, I wander over to Big Bang Bagels or Mugshots for a late lunch.
A flavor of the day. The taste of community.
We choose. Sometimes unconsciously. Sometimes consciously. We choose our community one cup of coffee, one cup of tea, one pint of beer, one glass of wine at a time.