Sacred Space

Dear Readers,

My secretary has become my sacred space. When I refer to my secretary, I’m really talking about the antique desk that has been handed down to me through three generations. It is actually called a secretary’s desk or escritoire, but we always called it “the secretary”. It is a tall piece of furniture with several wide drawers and a hinged top that can be pulled down as a writing surface. Atop that is a set of bookshelves with glass doors. Within the hinged area, there are cubbies and mini drawers for keeping writing supplies like stationary, envelopes, stamps, address books, pens and pencils. It affords me a great sense of organization.
I keep paperclips, staples and stapler, tape, rubber bands, slates and styli for hand writing braille, Sharpees, and such in mine. The glass enclosed bookcase houses my antique books, my great grandmother’s miniature pitcher collection and a few other sentimental trinkets, including my Grammy’s ashes in a delicate little porcelain tea pot with a blue and white floral pattern on it. My mother inspired the organization and content of the drawers; all our wrapping paper, gift bags, colored tissue paper, ribbons and scissors live there throughout my childhood. But the top drawer is filled with various other blindness related items I sometimes find useful like braille playing cards, my color identifier, my braille labeler and dimotape, cords and chargers to my sundry adaptive electronics, and a set of tactile dice.

My grandfather, Poppie, acquired the secretary many years ago. A real estate broker and entrepreneur, he had a way of manifesting unusual treasures and bestowing them on his family. When my mom grew up and settled into our first (and only) house, he bequeathed it to her, where it sat in our “TV room” throughout my childhood. It was always an exciting moment when I was instructed to get “blank” out of the secretary for her . It was dark and beautiful, smelled musty and warm. The glass bookcase had a skeleton key to lock its treasures within it. Funny though- that key has always just sat in the lock for any old thief to turn. Even now! The glass is beveled and seemed magical to me as a girl.

I just love my secretary. When I decided last year that it was high time for me to have a roomof my own in our house, the secretary was the first thing I claimed for my sacred space. Each of my children had a room of their own. My husband had an entire library. I noticed that everywhere I tried to set up shop to be alone with my thoughts, other people and their stuff seemed to invade. Sure, I guess I could say the kitchen was mine; I love to cook and create in there. But if that was my room, why couldn’t I keep the sink free of people’s dirty dishes, counters clear of clutter, and floor free of discarded shoes? The Wedgewood blue front parlor called to me. It’s ornately plastered ceiling and walls were fanciful and unique. The color was cheery and energizing. The sunlight streams in on sunny mornings (not as common as I’d like them to be in this region) and fill the room with warmth and creativity. It felt a bit bold and selfish, but it was exactly what I needed at that point in my life- my very own imagination workshop. With only some grumbling from the kids and husband, we cleared out the miscellany and moved in the antique couch Grammy had found for me in NH, adorning it with throw pillows. I filled the armoire with knitting supplies, beep baseball paraphernalia, and teaching accessories. . Great grandmother Mommy Peg’s marble coffee table abuts the couch and hosts an ornate antique lamp and a bowl of porcelain Wedgewood spheres. During the cold months, the wicker planter full of cacti and various houseplants abide the cold until they can be returned to their homes on the front porch. Call it what you will- an office, the blue room, a parlor, a word garden, a result of a mid-life temper tantrum; it is all mine, it feeds my creativity, and its focal point is my secretary.

That desk was the delivery room for this very blog. Sitting at it one sunny winter morning, reflecting on the many people I have interacted with over the years for whom I feel especially grateful, the seed for this forum to express my thoughts suddenly germinated. The words seemed to stream from my fingertips as our cat nudged my calves and blueberry scented steam wafted from my tea cup. Each morning now, I descend the stairs and enter my sanctuary, pulling down the hinged shelf on which my laptop sits. The words and ideas tumble out and my soul fills with purpose and gratitude for the many gifts in my life and my opportunity and space to share them with you.

So, on this Administrative Professionals’ Day (formerly known as Secretaries’ Day), this is my homage to my sacred space. The drawers, shelves, and cubbies are as full of memories, inspiration, generosity, imagination, and possibilities as they are with actual writing junk!

Love,
Kirstyn

 

Inspired by…

By a creek in Cataraugus County

The land tickles words from my fingertips
And I wonder if water can travel any way but honestly;
If loneliness gnaws her shores in winter and sucks her sheets into twine in summer;
Whether she feels enough after the jaws of March relent
and if resentment towards her passengers is possible during pregnancy ,
So tethered to God as she seems.

Can she hear the notes and lyrics of her friction with the earth
The stones and hulls of maker and man?
Maybe only at night,
When hers is the soloist’s voice?
But when would there even be time to listen
With all the business of the journey
To wherever she is going?

After having the time of his life horseback riding on a Boy Scout trip to Filmont with our older son, I decided to encourage my husband to continue riding. So, for Christmas that year, I presented him with a weekend away at the R and R Dude Ranch in Otto, NY. It was exactly what he had dreamed of and just what we both needed. Smack dab in the middle of nowhere, we spent three days luxuriating in nature and discovering the wonder and beauty of horses. A no-frills ranch, it was a place to get dirty, play hard, and unwind. After the day of trail riding and hiking, we’d relax on the porch of our private cabin and marvel at the natural beauty around us. Nature has always been a muse for me. Listening to the power and language of the water as it rushed by our cabin, this poem sprang from my fingertips.

Love,
Kirstyn

 

Tandem cycling: Riding Blindly

Riding Blindly

I know the route by its scents-
Rosehip patches littering the shoulders, a talisman of tea in the season to come;
Sweet cut fields of clover and crabgrass tickling a delicious memory of childhood
and a throbbing sinus vacuum.
Poor dead skunk, the halfway marker, encouraging the push for home,
Warning us to look both ways.
Before the stand of pine embrace us with their shade-
A living, cooling cape of colonial majesty-
Until the Sugar Shack’s fryalator congratulates us at the finish,
Teasing our spent muscles and breath with the promise of clam-laced heart attacks.

This poem was conceived on an arduous 12 mile tandem ride with my husband several years ago in Charlestown, RI where we vacation every summer. The sensations were overwhelming enough for the fragments to form in my mind. Tandem cycling has become a spiritual act for me- an exercise in trust and partnership. The joint physical strain to achieve a common goal or destination evolves into an emotionally-charged experience of encouragement and support. We like to joke that it is cheap marriage therapy!

Love,
Kirstyn

 

Depression versus Daffodils

It was one of those days. She felt like curling back up into her toasty flannel sheets. Cold seeped through the  covers and she got up, raw and lonely, to make the boys’ lunches. The coffee smell wafted  up the staircase, beckoning  a nauseous stomach with promises of energy and focus.

Exhausted and empty, she obeyed her hopeful nose. The sandwiches were

assembled: string cheeses and puddings, apples and pretzels.  Hats, mittens, and library books were packed.

And then there was the snippet of quiet between  the boys’ breakfast and the bus arrival. She  crouched above the foyer heating grate, soaking in all the heat her body would accept, when the boy shouted, “Mom, come here! Where are you?” She drew away from the warmth, the last vestiges of her cozy bed, to see what the child needed. “Mom, I have a surprise for you. Come here,” he begged as he lent her his hand and drew it to the porch railing. As she left the bottom step, he drew her to the front yard, leading her hand toward the ground.  The cool, satin petals shocked her fingertips. Fat, rigid tendrils of silken fabric greeted her. Those familiar ridgs and fluting. The fibrous, waxy stem. Her favorites. “Smell it,” he commanded.

 

In the brisk, sterile morning air, she thought she smelled the faintest of daffodil scents, those that only the hopeful can perceive. She grabbed the boy by the shoulders and pulled him hard to her. “Thank you. You know they are my favorites.”And she began her day again, this time with courage and gratitude.

Kirstyn smelling a vase of freshly picked daffodils from her yard

 

TBT

I recently found this one buried in an old hard drive and thought it worth sharing on Throw Back Thursday! It made me so grateful for teaching my kids the value of penpalling and building relationships. We used to sit at the desk in their room and they would dictate the letters to me. We would print them out, draw a few accompanying pictures, and seal it up. They loved addressing the envelopes and placing the stamps in the corner. We’d walk down to the nearest big blue USPS mailbox in the neighborhood and I’d lift them up so they could have the pleasure of opening the door and slipping the letter into the box’s mouth. And then, we’d wait for the response.

I’d love to tell you that Henry and Alice continue to write to each other. The truth is that they are still in touch, only it is through Instagram and Snapchat now! Times change but building friendships is timeless!

Dear Alice,

Happy birthday!!!!

For Christmas I got a pirate kit that has everything a pirate would have like a hook that came with it and I like it a lot. I got a Geico lizard that talks and a Geico t-shirt. I asked Santa for a magic wand and I got it and I asked for a pack of Pokemon cards and I got that too. I got a magician kit that came with a little hat and you can put it on and the wand is very hard to get on the tips and do the magic. And I got a little cape that is purple.

I go to school 5 days a week. My teachers are Mrs. Kenyon and Mrs. Q. And my friends are Alex, Katie, Maddie, Emily, Jaden, Jack E. , Jack M. , Benjamin and Olivia. I play, eat, read, sing, and do everything that your school does. My favorite song is “Martin Luther King”. I play Legos and in the family center where we can dress up and cook things. I like to make letters in the writing center but we ran out of paper and envelopes. We just got some more though.
My favorite foods are watermelon and grapes. My favorite vegetable is broccoli and beans. My favorite meat is fish, especially if I catch it.

I know about ice skating. I have been to that little rink here in my city. I don’t fall down that much but my mom and dad help me a lot because I used to fall down a lot. My mom stands me up and holds my hand but I am getting better. I am proud of you for getting up gracefully. I would say that you need just a litttttttttttle bit more practice.

Happy birthday. I am jealous that you are five but I’ll be five pretty soon. My birthday is March 28. How was the ice skating show? Did you go to the ice rink? What did you get for your birthday?

I have read a lot of books lately. I read a lot of books every night in my bed and at school. I read Richard Scarry books a lot. Remember the drawings on the walls in my bedroom? I am learning to read with my dad. We are using a book from the library that is special to teach me to read little words and learn sounds. My mom gets out of the library the books with braille and print so she can help me sound out the words I can’t yet. I like the Magic Tree House books. My dad or Oliver reads them to me. They are chapter books but they have some pictures. “The Knight at Dawn” is my favorite one. There’s a castle with knights in it and Jack and Annie have to find a clue to help Merlin.

My library has computers. I can play a lot of games on them. We have Artichokey at my library. Artichokey is a big ceramic giraffe that you can do I Spy on. I have puppet theater that I like so much because I put on shows with puppets. My favorite one is a raccoon in a trash can. It is so fun and everybody does it.

This is for your birthday.

Sincerely,
Henry

 


Dear Doctor,

Father, brother, hero man
With steady, strong, and studied hand
Make ember flare and fire burn
O prophet of some sight returned
Super scrubbed, anesthetize
The Hungry darkwithin these eyes
War-torn retinas’ wrinkles smooth;
These endless tears of grief remove.
Laser doubt, despair, and loss;
I’m no Jesus;please lift this cross.
Suture patience, strength, and hope-
You have to have the antidote.
Prescribe the light, inject Maybe
Restore Someday’s warm hope to me

Adoringly,
Your patient patient

I wrote that poem on June 17, 2012 after yet another follow up visit to my beloved retinologist, Dr. Steven J. Rose, MD. Since arriving in Rochester 24 years ago, he has nurtured my spirit as he has treated me medically. His soft spoken brilliance, palpable compassion, and absolute professionalism have sustained me as my vision receded. As witchy as it sounds, the poem is an homage to the beauty and intensity of our relationship. Elements of mystery and magic continue to linger within the realm of medicine for even the most scientifically astute patient. We commonly and irrationally turn our caregivers into superheros and gods, projecting our fears and faith onto the tangible humans who treat us. Of course, armed with scalpels and RX pads, they are merely instruments of the invisible “Great Healer”, but it is comforting to hold them close and celebrate them.