This weekend I hosted an Ikea furniture-building party. A friend and I went to Ikea in the afternoon to buy the table, chairs, lights, and bed I’ll need in my new place and then other friends came over to help build it. Every other place I’ve lived since leaving California has been furnished, or I just slept on an air-bed and stacked my books along a wall for a summer.
I wanted more this time.
Here are the before and after pictures:
One of my favorite pieces I grabbed this weekend is this globular floor lamp, who to me looks like nothing more than a happy alien from Doctor Who. My entire apartment has a rough theme–somewhere between camping and a cloud, between the location of the TARDIS in this year’s Christmas episode and the apartment in this short story. When I sit at my table, I want to feel like I’m out camping with my friends, the wood a little rough and just as brown as the standard-issue California Park Service picnic tables. When I lie on my off-white carpet and look up I want to feel like I feel when I wake up in my tent, the sunlight diffusing through the walls so they seem to glow. And at night, I want stars:
And, most importantly, I want to give my Paul D. Goodman original the space and recognition it deserves:
One of the things I love about my new place’s location and decoration is the feeling of compression and release. When I visited Falling Water, the tour guide mentioned that one of the themes of that house was compression and release. You walk through a narrow, dark-wooded corridor without much light into a dark paneled room, full of a bed and some small, bright textiles or baskets. Then step onto the outdoor deck and feel the release, the springing up and out of internalized worries.
My entire morning commute is a balance between use feeling of compression and release. I start my morning with a 13 minute walk to the metro station through a big open park on the top of a hill and then a short walk through some wild and border woods. When I get on the metro, I got over inlets and rivers, with the open sky above me. The closer to work I get, the more time I spend underground. This focuses me, gets me going in the direction of the mindset I work best in.
And then on my way back from work, the further I get from the DC the more open the sky is, the more freedom my mind has to just wander, just bouncing around all of the things that bother me and that I want to make.
Whether this apartment is “home” depends on where Matthew is and where my other family is. Somewhere in the decade I spent moving between houses every 3-4 days I discovered that home was where my family was, and it wasn’t a house, or houses, or a room, or rooms, but wherever my family was. (And sometimes where my books are.)
At work, a colleague asked how the move was going and whether I was “living out of boxes.” And I was surprised that she thought that that might be hard for me. Of course I could live out of boxes and be normal. Of course I could live out of a backpack or a dresser drawer. I visited Matthew in DC for years and found home was whatever hotel or motel we had a room in that night.
So, as has been true for most of my life, I have many homes. I have one in Seattle where Matthew is. I have one in the Bay Area where my family lives. I have one spread across the Middle East, where my mind drifts during those long, open sky parts of the daily journeys. I have one here, in DC, where I decorated with rocks from Petra and the Sierras and the Pacific ocean and the Dead Sea and a small piece of sea glass from where the Mediterranean kisses the shore in Lebanon. Where I can hang a picture my brother drew for me and where four of my friends came last night, to eat chips and complain about Ikea instructions and fill this new space with home.
“Where thou art – that – is Home.”–Emily Dickinson