Friday, December 19, 2014

New Digs, Again

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

 We sold our house a bit more than a year ago and have lived in another apartment until now- a smallish two bedroom one just off a busy, busy street. The people surrounding us were either quiet and non-judgemental, inhabiting their innocuous spaces, or they were friendly and harmless, agreeable benign apparitions in our small garden. Living in tight and predictable enclosed spaces doesn’t agree with me. I am glad to be away from it. I find renting is unsettling, but it’s not just that. It’s the lack of mystery and openness. I like some things to be secluded and hidden and undisturbed.

So we have left the little apartment behind, which, for all intents and purposes, was pretty kind to us in its uncomplicated style. We have spent our first night in the new place. A proper house with stairs and enough rooms, and a bit of mystery and seclusion, and little places to put things, and these lovely stained glass doors and windows. It feels like a lucky house- or at least, that it might be when the finishing touches take place. It still needs plastering and painting, and we cannot put some things away in their proper places because we know that the air will be disturbed again by noise and workmen making messes in the name of making things look better.

But who’s complaining? I can tinker away in my upstairs study surrounded by some beautiful books. I have these large picture books by Umberto Eco near me. One of them, called ‘The Infinity of Lists’, has a lovely picture by Burne-Jones on the cover. A detail from ‘The Golden Stairs.’ There is a Munch biography on display next to it featuring an intense self-portrait on the cover. Munch is staring in anguish holding a cigarette in his right hand. The three Thames and Hudson volumes of the ‘Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh’ sit underneath it. These are books that were purchased for me in December 1986, and will always be with me for their sheer beauty. The new Edinburgh University volumes of Katherine Mansfield’s works are also lovely. The first volume of her complete stories features a browny-purple cover, and has a photo of KM from 1910, at the age of 22, living in London like a bohemian and looking almost Maori. She is wearing a smug expression. The second volume is a rich blue, and its cover features a photo of KM from 1920, living in a hotel in Menton, France, at 32 but looking more middle aged and more mature than this, wiser, with barely three years to live. It is the year of the great volume of stories called ‘Bliss.’ I even have all my old diaries at my feet, the first entry of the first diary dealing with my turbulent emotions after the assassination of John Lennon.



Already this study feels like it has been with me for a long time. I can see a portion of the outside street from the window above my desk. Dusk is invading the street and there are some people outside somewhere talking. There is a tall plane tree in the right hand corner, its branches filled with ferns that are reaching upwards towards the sky. There are empty boxes around me and everything else is ghostly quiet. I can think and feel and breathe better than I have been able to do for a long time. It’s a quarter to nine at night. In the Australian summer there is still some light, but soon much of the light will be bluish, glowing from the computer screen.



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