this nook i’ve come to call home
really, i think, i’m part squirrel. or maybe fat-cheeked chipmunk. certainly from the mammalian order Rodentia. i know, i know. it’s not a pretty picture. those furry little critters that make so many yelp. leap high on stools. lurch for brooms.
i do exhibit many squirrel-like tendencies. i burrow. i conform whole-bodily to my confines. i’ve been known to overstuff my pantry with twos and threes of things i love — just in case! a squirrel does too. only they call it hoarding. stocking up for winter. i call it making sure i don’t have to dash to the grocery in the wee wee hours, when suddenly an urge for popcorn strikes (see! yet another link between me and the bushy-tailed kernel-loving kind!).
mostly, though, it’s about the burrowing. about boring in, carving tunnels in my cove. making cozy. is not the squirrel the queen of cozy comfy? heck, if you can make the insides of an old oak’s trunk the very place where you can’t wait to scurry at the end of a long day hauling acorns, you are one fine cozy-maker.
and so it is, here in the aerie. where 192 days into this experiment in third-floor living, i can barely consider packing up and leaving without scrunching up my countenance.
i’ve come to love this little place. love the pit-a-pat of soles against the shining planks of maple. love the sunshine streaming in by day, and the moonlight every cloudless night. love the sounds of the city down below, tucked away, not far from harvard square, where just now cardinal and blue jay are out the window carrying on a discourse above the din of all the thinkers strolling by.
i am particularly fond of this little breakfast nook, all bench and cushions, with steam heat pouring up from down below my bum. how fine a configuration is that? to have your undersides steamed like chinese buns?
i sit here by the hour, especially at the dawn. my earthen mug filled high. the morning birds flitting in for a nibble at the feeder. this morning it is particularly quiet. and quiet is a sound i love more than most. so hushed i hear the water drip-drip-dripping from the sink. every once in a while, the gurgle from the french-roast trough. the hum from the fridge.
i leap out of bed before the clock chimes “time to wake,” just so i can steal a few extra minutes — all alone, in cloak of morning light, before the rush begins.
and i can’t help but marvel at the human capacity for burrowing down to joy. for shirking off the parts that make us squirm. for honing in on finding where our hum comes. where comfort rises up, wraps round us, holds us tight.
we are a species — we and our bushy-tailed brethren, yes — who can’t help but toil toward equilibrium. and, hardly content to idle in the neutral zone, we burrow deeper still, down to where the glories bubble up. we find our hum, indeed.
all this from a girl who, just a year ago, was dizzy at the thought of leaving a place that had carved her in the palm of its hand. all this from a girl who 192 mornings ago was clicking snapshots of the old house she was leaving behind, as if she’d not breathe again till she returned. and here i am, humming. knowing my well-worn footpaths in the maple planks. having carved a whole new routine. morning coffee, followed by reading, followed by catching glimpse of sunrise, followed by clomp-clomp-clomp along the cobbled sidewalks, drawing me into lecture halls and classrooms where i nearly purr with pure contentment.
we find joy.
it’s what, as a species, we are wired to do.
i write this because i never cease to be amazed. at this capacity for comfort. at making home wherever we are plopped.
i write this because a friend i love — nay, adore — stands at the brink of just such a translocation. and she is trembling. wondering what she’s doing to her family, up and hauling them across the country, to a faraway place that right now feels oh-so foreign.
i write this because i was that trembling soul. but a wee small voice inside propelled me. whispered louder than all the others: don’t be afraid. just go!
and so, for all these days and weeks and months, we’ve been living the experiment. (and here’s the part where the hallelujahs come, rise up and bring on tears…) i’ve watched my boy become best friends with a kid who can’t afford the hot cocoa in the cafeteria. i’ve heard stories that might make your hairs stand on end. but he takes them in stride because he loves the kid who tells the stories, true stories from a life that’s short on lucky breaks. and i can’t help but know that to have your eyes wide-opened when you’re 11, when you’re smack dab in middle school, is to keep those eyes forever scanning the landscape in whole new ways.
that sweet boy will not go back to our leafy little village taking it for granted, taking anything for granted (so help me, Lord on high). he will not forget his friend who has to step over the drug-dealing in the staircase. or the other stories i can’t tell here. he will remember how much he loved the street ball in the gym. how the big towering kids loved the scrappy little white boy, my boy. and how he woke up and realized he was truly color blind. and more than comfortable in a united nations classroom.
i write this because i live and breathe contentment these days. pure joy is an hourly intoxicant.
and i wouldn’t have gotten here if i’d let the demons hold me down.
i promise you, my friend, you will purr again. your babies will stretch and pull and some nights, at bedtime, break down in floods of tears. but the morning will come when you are all gathered round the breakfast table, and laughter will rise up. and you’ll all feel oh so deeply home. and you’ll look around at all the wonders that have come your way, and you won’t want to imagine what it would have been like to not know such particular life-defining joys.
i promise you, my friend. we’ve all got a dose of squirrel somewhere down inside.
what are the little joys that make for comfort zones in your long day?