Living Room Imagined by Maria Theresa Maggi

Favorite couch given to me by a friend 20 years ago, favorite chimney cupboard with fire sculpture on top my my daughter-in-law, a favorite basket, thrift store lamp from son and daughter-in-law, and my dearly loved “Infinity” poster. Drawn at the coast, from memory.

When I first began to teach myself how to draw again, I focused a lot on objects from life or from photographs that captured my eye. It took me a long time to attempt to draw something from memory. When I do draw from memory, I learn a lot about what was most prominent to me when I was looking at an object or a scene. I learn what I emphasize because I love it, or because it’s what stands in my mind or heart for the whole.

In each effort there is an emphasis on certain details that define the “thisness” of whatever it is I’m trying to represent–or maybe a better word even is “capture.” And often what I’m trying to capture is one of my “things,” which is funny, in a way, because we don’t think of physical things as ephemeral. But they can be: like this pin cushion lit up by the sun one afternoon.

Or sometimes it’s an object from a photograph that I interpret, like this God’s Eye:

There’s a lot of emphasis these days on minimal living, decluttering, simplifying, not having so many things. In each of my moves up until now, I have endeavored to downsize in this spirit. When I loved to my little  mobile home at the beach, I took very little with me. There was already a bed and a dresser, a small butcher block table, chairs, and even dishes and pots and pans. I brought a table to draw on, my rocking chair, clothes, art supplies and a book or two.  Later I brought a couple of pieces of art to put on the wall.

At first I didn’t miss my book shelves filled with what became favorite teachers  over my childhood years and adult life, or the art that hangs on my walls back in Portland. There were big windows to let the light in and to glimpse the ocean from; I didn’t think I would need anything more. I knew I wanted to make the coast my permanent home, and for a time, I thought it would be in that little park model trailer. But in the end I wanted to have more room for my things.

It isn’t that I buy every book I want to read or save every book I happen to buy. Unlike many of my other bookish friends, most of the time I prefer to take books out of the library and literally share in the experience of reading a book with strangers, across time and space, passing it back so that chain of invisible can grow. In Portland I loved all the free libraries in my neighborhood as well. I would “take out” a book that looked good to me, read it, and then deposit it in yet another free library, keeping the cycle going. The books I own are ones that speak to me from my past about what I’ve learned, how I’ve changed, or what is beautiful to me. Ones that change me by also being physical objects I hold in my hands. They are the ones I take off the shelf from time to time to call those selves into the present. They include many of the journals I’ve kept over the years. Together these books and journals are a congregation inspiring gratitude and continuity, even if their numbers have slowly dwindled over the years, or remain roughly constant, as I add a new one, and let one or two others go.  So at first, I was so enamored by my tiny house situation, I didn’t see this desire to keep more than I could display in my trailer take root.

Embracing this desire started out with wondering what I could fit and what I’d have to give up. My son suggested I draw a map of my condo to help me remember what was in it when I was back at the coast. This morphed into drawing objects and furniture I wanted to bring. Instead of just measurements, I thought it would help me to also have a sketch of what I was trying to place. It turned out I was fascinated by this and started a binder full of sketches of various “things” I might try to fit into the trailer.

When I was led to the opportunity to purchase the home I’m now buying I realized that despite my love for tiny houses and tiny house lore, I am not a particularly good minimalist. I like the history my things provide me. I like their colors, their stories, the memories that come alive when I look at them, the presence of loved ones now gone or far away they convey to me.

It isn’t about their monetary value, having the oldest or the newest or the most. It’s about the portal to memory and connection to ideas and loved ones they represent. A dear friend of mine who is a talented clairvoyant would say that time is an illusion, that it’s a way of stretching everything simultaneously out into a sequence we can make sense of in human form. She says we have the ability to dial into a channel on this frequency that goes beyond time, thus bringing events and people seemingly disparate in time together once again, even across death. In some small way, my objects, and my representations of them accentuate connections I feel that have nothing to do with whether an object is the best pin cushion, dog food container or hamper ever. They may be small in the vastness of the universe, but they open me up to memories and experience of delight, surprise and connection that seem to have no end, and that can lift me into a higher state of awareness in the residence of each present moment.

Take, for example, this sketch of my hamper:

Besides the fact that it’s lightweight and well, pink, this collapsible hamper always reminds me that when I first opened it up I became the perfect cartoon character. I was  reading the instructions at the same time I was trying to open it, and just as I was beginning to read the warning that it could expand quickly, it popped open right into my face, as if springing to life on its own, startling me and making me laugh out loud. Apparently I wasn’t a fast enough reader, warned though I was. I felt a little like Buster  Keaton trying to read a newspaper that never stops opening, until it takes over the whole park bench he’s trying to read it on.

Somehow, every time I put dirty clothes in it or take them out of it as I load my washing machine, the fact that this hamper made me laugh so much when it first sprang to life as my hamper is embedded in its hamper-ness, always a part of my laundry experience. As I sketched it I thought about this and also how much silly fun to was to elevate it into something worthy of depicting in this way.

So maybe it’s not the things I love, but what they represent. But maybe it IS the things, because of what invisible portals they open. Perhaps it’s both–and in this way there is a poetry inherent in my things. And even though it’s wise to live simply, and I’ve downsized a lot in the last few years and am still letting stuff go, I’m feeling a sense of anticipation about the new house where there’s room on the high walls for the large paintings and prints I’ve loved for decades, some rendered by my very first art teacher, some by me under her guidance, old friends that remind me how I learned to appreciate what is beautiful.

And yet, despite its lack of wall space for bookshelves and large art, I’ll miss my little park model trailer. The “art” in it is the wide windows that open out to the afternoon sun and show a dab of ocean through the blinds and the neighbor’s porch. I love that view and the objects that frame it enough to draw it. It’s less a realistic representation than it is what it feels like to me to look at it. It’s my way of “taking it with me.”

 

And that’s the way it should be when I leave a place: a little sad, my love and gratitude a kind of tribute to all it gave me, making the colors, the light, the way the days and nights felt when I lived there just that much more special and not to be duplicated anywhere else in the world. And then, too, there’s the pleasure of passing it on to the next person to enjoy.

Now it’s time for a new place–but with my old things. Things from many years ago, and things I’ve come to love in the last few months. Things I made or wrote a long time ago. Things loved ones have gifted me. I may have flunked as a minimalist, but I’m grateful for the life my things remind me of. I hold them lightly as I can, and treasure how they help me travel through time, back to people and places it was time to leave, and yet they remain, embodied, in my things. Some pretty and little, some extraordinarily ordinary, all unique because of the loving and delightful stories they hold. In this paradoxical way, I am able and willing to move forward, the ever present ocean reminding me each day, that even with my things,  life is “always never the same.”

 

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

 

 

 

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As Christmas approached, and we were to spend the bulk of it at the trailer, I began to regret that with all the moving, I had no clear idea of where my Christmas decoration box actually was. It wasn’t in my condo in Portland, and I didn’t remember seeing it in the basement storage room there either. Then I remembered that last Christmas I had handed it over to my daughter-in-law, who hosted her family and me, and that it must be up in their attic over on Missouri Street. Ah, well. We would only be here over Christmas Eve night anyway.

But still. Although we had decided to forgo large gifts for “gifting” each other with kind acts and donations to organizations or causes we believe in, I still felt there should be some beauty or uplift in the very moment. To that end, I enlisted a coast friend to drive me into Lincoln City in search of a kite. My daughter-in-law has talked about flying one on the beach since I moved here, and I knew my son would delight in it as well. She’d do the flying, he’d do the filming of the flying, and they’d both be happy as proverbial clams.

I had one all picked out so our time at the local kite shop was brief but productive. As we made our way home, I pressed my friend to indulge me in a quick stop at The Christmas Cottage. I’d never been there before, and I felt certain they would have some kind of Christmas lights I might want to hang in the trailer. I just didn’t know what they would be.

The place is jampacked with incredible Christmas decorations of all stripes and open 363 days a year. I was told to turn right to find Christmas lights and within a minute I had stumbled onto these:

I knew at once these were the perfect choice for me. But this, and the more traditional angel chimes I purchased in honor of my mother, didn’t turn out to be the highlight of my visit, delightful and just right though they were. I made my purchases at a cash register that was up against the back of the store, and behind the cashier was a rather larger picture window. Outside there was a lovely wooded area with a little creek and several hummingbirds flying about a feeder that hung there. The woman who rung up my sale told me they feed the birds year round and that also a beaver lives in the creek. They’ve named him something perfect, but I can’t think of what it is at the moment.

Hummingbirds have been in the backdrop of my life for a long time. When Mike was small and we lived in an upstairs apartment in Southern California I would see them spinning by through the eucalyptus branches to feeders on someone’s balcony. When I lived on Asbury Street in Idaho, I delighted on the summer days they came to feast on the nectar in the hollyhocks outside my back door. When I moved to the house on Van Buren Street I stumbled upon a larger lovely botanical poster of the many different kinds of hummingbirds in  America. It needs a little touching up, but it was a find framed and ready to hang on the wall in the room where I did my yoga each morning. When I moved to the trailer and started spending time at the coast, I saw they were quite numerous and that many people fed them. I had a conversation with one of my neighbors about how he feeds them.

One afternoon at the coast in late Fall, the sun came out for a brief moment after a lot of rain. I had opened the front door for a few minutes, and in came a hummingbird, perhaps drawn by the reflection of light through the windows. It stayed but a couple of seconds, but it enchanted both me and the dogs, who all stood amazed. It seemed like a sign of something wonderful to come, but I didn’t know what. And anyway, I love the universe to surprise and delight me.

So as I paid my bill for the starfish lights, I was absolutely taken with having such a good long look at these little birds. That afternoon I lay on the futon resting and reading a novel called To The Bright Edge of the World. I was as yet unaware how central to the plot the image of the hummingbird would finally become, but I thought it was lovely that the married couple who are central to the story while they are separated by miles and duty, were first brought together by the discovery of a hummingbird nest. It turns out that the hummingbird’s nest is central to the love story unfolding in the novel, across thousands of miles, heartbreak, times of separation and an amazing miraculous reunion.

In our world of polarities, all this delight has to be counterbalanced by at least a little frustration. About ten days to a week before Christmas, I experienced that in the form of a very testy property manager at the RV Park next to where I live, who played her “private property” card, and denied me and my Silkens passage through their park and their beach access. Ours was under water at the moment. But her inhospitable stance strengthened in me a resolve that had been merely a speculation. That maybe I ought to look for a more permanent home just up the highway, with more permanent access structure to the beach, a larger area to walk the dogs when we couldn’t get on the beach and friends I have met who live there. Since my daughter-in-law’s family also owns a house in the same neighborhood, it was the first place I stayed on this beach that I love so much. So I decided to thank this cranky manager in my head, for helping me resolve to look.

I had no sooner said this to myself than I was telling a dear long time friend on the phone during our full moon phone conversation. This was just a month ago. She said, interestingly, it’s odd, but I see a house already waiting for you. And we laughed. The next day I sent her a link to one I had walked by that didn’t seem like it was for me, but was something in my price range and maybe a good place to start. That evening she sent me a link to another one saying, “How about this one? It reminds me of the uniqueness of your house on Van Buren Street.”

I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It DID have that same feel. And it was two mere blocks from the ocean! And in my price range. I called the agent who sold me the trailer and we made an appointment to go view. There was a hummingbird feeder at the front porch and several hummingbirds flitting around as we knocked on the door. Oddly the owner, not the agent, was there to show us around. She is a woman who has been fixing it up, but fell in love with a man down the street. They got married recently and are now both selling their places to buy one together.

When I started to draw the hummingbird in the image at the top of this post on my birthday, I thought it would be a more “finished” looking drawing. But then I realized I had picked a photo to work with in which the wings of the hummingbird where moving so fast they were a blur. I realized that it was this that was attracting me, because it somehow evokes the speed at which this story I’m trying to convey here gained momentum.

Three days before Christmas I made an offer on this house, contingent on selling my home in Portland. By Christmas Eve, they had countered and we had countered and we had a deal. By December 30, my condo was on the market. By January 4, I was considering offers. By my birthday, I had an accepted offer. Even these quick sentences do not express the speed with which the universe set this chain of events in motion. I slept in my Portland home on Christmas night, not yet knowing that it would be my last night truly “living” there. As the sun rose the day after Christmas I saw the balsamic moon, the waning crescent phase of the moon I was born under, glowing in the sky from my bed. I watched as it dissolved into the brightening sunlight. It was a beautiful sight. I didn’t know it was a send-off until later: in 4 days when we returned from visiting my daughter-in-law’s family in southern Idaho, I had only that evening to gather some things and head over to my son and daughter-in-law’s with the dogs to camp there to optimize viewing time for prospective buyers and make things less stressful for me and my Silkens.

The day I considered offers on my Portland home at my son’s table, my real estate agent asked me what I wanted to call the house on the coast I am trying to buy, just so we could keep everything straight. Without missing a beat, I said, “hummingbird house.”

I was recently at “hummingbird house” for the inspection, and the hummingbirds did not disappoint. As I was saying good-bye to the inspector on the driveway, two of them circled my head, flew around us and into a nearby tree. We both laughed.

But then, there’s the seagull. . .the one who stood in the middle of the street looking at us from the car as I drove away from the house I am buying with my real estate agent after the first time I saw the inside. I had just said something like, you never know, maybe it will all work out, not yet having my condo on the market in Portland, just trying to “wing” my way to a viable offer. The seagull just stood there, stared at us, and then very slowly and purposefully  lifted its wings to fly low to the ground in front of us,as if it were leading us forward on a pilgrimage. Then, at the bend in the road that leads back to the highway, slowly, with incredible grace, it lifted itself higher and higher and turned back toward the ocean.

It could be said there came some apparently  impassible road blocks along the way at the beginning, but whenever I’d check in with my spirit the words that came were “it’s a done deal.” So in some moments even though I didn’t know how that could possibly be, I trusted it.

The day I pondered some rather surprising inspection findings, the dogs and I walked by the house. I stood in the street and stared at it, meditating on all the things than can go wrong when a house is owned. But beyond that was a definite feeling that this was my HOME, and the worry about whether the beautiful trees might fall on it someday or powder post beetles eat it away made me start to giggle. And I just knew I should go forward and say yes to it, it was all going to work out, even though I didn’t know quite how yet. I turned to walk away, with a smile on my face and calm resolve in my heart.  I looked up,  and there was (the same?) seagull, sitting on a log in the next yard, regarding me (again). He just looked at me for a moment, then slowly, slowly spread those amazing wings, lifting himself into flight, turning in front of us to fly down the street in the direction we were heading, once again, as if he were leading the mysterious way, before heading back out toward the ocean.

Then, a third time, when inspection negotiations featured one of those mirages of seeming impossibility, as the dogs and I made our way down to look at the booming winter ocean one morning, I asked for a phrase for this part of the journey. The words that came to me on the path down to the beach access were “stay the course.” I liked the sound of that. No sooner had we arrived at a view of the ocean than what seemed like the very same seagull appeared. He stood on the sand below us regarding me. Then ever so slowly, he lifted his wings, circled in slow motion over the sand, gradually rising into the air above us and then out into the ocean. As he did this, he was joined by two others, one on either side. It was a beautiful confirmation to hold steady.

Perhaps I should be a little embarrassed to write about such things as signs, or to admit that I am moving again for the 3rd time in 3 years. But I’m not. Third time’s a charm, it seems to me. Because this house feels like a destination. And that’s not the end of the story either. My little mobile home is being purchased by my neighbor across the fence. It seems that he looked at it when it was for sale before I came along and bought it, but could not quite make up his mind to take the step of purchasing it, though it is a perfect place for him. So in some way, perhaps I was meant to buy it and hold the place for him, while it also gave me a place from which to find MY perfect place, so I could pass his perfect place on to him when he was ready.

If, as Joan Didion has written, we tell each other stories in order to live, then I say it’s also true I weave for myself a story from all these moments that affirms my life in all its mysterious purpose. The story isn’t finished yet, but that’s the magic. It’s never finished. It’s always, always an amazing and surprising work in progress.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

 

 

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Wrapping The World in Light

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Blood Oranges and Slow Miracles in Poetry

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It’s Just A Tea Bag

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Close Calls

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Is a wave still a wave after it throws itself onto the shore, and then recedes, flattened, back into the surf? The water is but a few inches deep, and on this particular day, filled with foam. It’s early November, almost noon. We are walking on a state beach at low tide. The sun has […]

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Lunch Is Served: Easy Oil Free Kale Chips and Smashed Chickpea Spread

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Halloween has never been one of my favorite holidays, but there IS one thing I like about it: the carving of Jack O Lanterns. And as you may recall from way back near the beginning of my blog in my photo essay The Reincarnation of My Jack O Lantern, I am not above cooking it […]

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My Favorite Weird Oatmeal

October 25, 2016

When I was little, the term OCD wasn’t in common parlance. At age 4 or 5, though, I’m pretty sure my bedtime requirements would have met such criteria. They were, not in exact order, as follows:  I needed to be covered with my kitty and doggy blanket; I needed to have Mozart’s Symphony in G […]

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I Have Gone To The Beach

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  I thought I would only be here at the beach for 3 weeks before returning to Portland, but over time I began to see how strongly the forces of the universe conspired to keep me here until I catch my breath. This seems to have involved finding ways, all of a sudden, to jump […]

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Two Sunsets and a Moonrise

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A few years back when I still lived on the Palouse, Romeo and I were taking a walk on the trail at the edge of the University of Idaho. It was the time when my chapbook If A Sparrow had been selected as a finalist in the 2012 Open Poetry Chapbook Competition at Finishing Line […]

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