My In-between Place

Where language and living connect

Heidegger had his hut. Deborah Levy, a garden shed. Dickinson, her bedroom. I have my treehouse.

It isn’t really a treehouse built around branches. But that’s how I like to think of the space where I write. With 8 windows that bring me as close to nature as possible without stepping outside, the room where I write feels private, high up, secretive—as tree forts are intended to make its young residents feel.

Who doesn’t want a space where our imaginations are set free? A space we can paint any color or leave wood and brick exposed? A place that holds only what we bring to it, kept as messy as we choose?

Book.jpgA favorite picture book when my children were young was A House Is a House for Me, by Mary Ann Haberman. After 35 years, the book is still in excellent condition, and not for lack of being read. Now it has become a favorite of my grandchildren. The text is minimal, pleasantly repetitive and rhyming. The illustrations are of ordinary things: drum, bag, kangaroo, coat, jack-o-lantern, egg, sandwich.

It’s the premise—that anything and everything is a house for something—that is at once clever and provocative. The story moves from the obvious “A hive is a house for a bee” to “A mirror’s a house for reflections, a throat is a house for a hum.”

The east windows of my treehouse look out on a towering pine, planted around the time my house was built in 1917. The pine—a house for every imaginable bird that visits my yard—has the slightest southern lean, maybe by 7 degrees, which has endeared me to it even more. My neighbor whose house is closer to the tree worries a storm will topple it and has hinted it might be time to cut it down.

Maple.jpgTo the south—4 windows wide—are, left to right, a walnut tree (much maligned by the neighbor who must clean up its nuts encased in rock-hard shells), an aging birch, and a sugar maple. In the foreground (my yard) is a hydrangea tree that offers its own fall blush.

Out the west windows is a white pine, the youngest of all the trees by far but holding its own against two columnar cedars which, if I opened the window, I could touch. A hawk patrols from their dense cover, doing its part in controlling the mice and voles that have taken up residence in my yard.

It is in this sunroom that I write. It is where I’m invited “to climb in-between the apparent reality of things, to see not only the tree but the insects that live in its infrastructure, to discover that everything is connected in the ecology [read: house] of language and living.” (Deborah Levy, The Cost of Living, 37)

Or as Haberman writes at the end of her charming book, “The earth is a house for us all.”

No matter the month or season, I’m grateful to have this in-between place, a room that is at once a treehouse, rising moon, thunderstorm, dream, echo, flame: anything I want it to be.

4 thoughts on “My In-between Place”

  1. I’ve only been In your house a few times but I loved the welcomeness of it. Your green thumbness, too. Awesomeness. How many words shall I add ”ness” to?? Thanks. Great photo.
    Here’s a couple of my nestingness photos.

    Oops. Can’t include here. Will send separately.

    Love you old friend.
    Linda

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  2. The vestment that the presiding minister wears on Sunday is called a chasuble. It’s Latin root means “little house” or “cottage.” I suppose the cloak was what kept you warm when you had to live outside. One liturgical professor said that the chasuble should be designed with enough grace and fullness that the whole church could imagine being at home inside. I’ve always loved that.

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  3. well said; love your clear depiction of your treehouse writing loft with the surrounding trees all working to support your efforts; keep writing!

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