*(‘cause we are living in a material world/ And I am a material girl)
Amongst the million thoughts let loose by the Random Hedgehog in my mind lately, are the repeated puzzling over space: Fill it up or leave it empty? How to best enjoy it: in its vastness or in a hyper awareness of how precious little there is?
Terrifyingly literal questions, mind, for the year gone by has crystallised these abstractions into an everyday dilemma: ‘To keep or not to keep?’ is what life-in-carton motion and hyphenated living between three homes has been confronting me with. And from a space mired in sentimental romanticism in which finding anything is a treasure hunt (chipped marbles I’ve won fair and square, ticket stubs to museums and elsewhere, or the chewed-up throw of a dear departed dog distracting you from the printing paper/ towel/emergency meds you’re digging around for), I could finally be whittling down towards the minimalism the boy idealises. Only, I’m calling it a more wabi sabi aesthetic as I try and filter and sift and, in the process of making piles to discard, take inspiration from what the fox told the little prince:
I’m also thinking of the snails I’ve seen making their deliberate way through our frenetic world: original gypsy hearts, travelling light, carrying their worlds on their backs. (And I’m thinking about how heavy my tea plates will be to shoulder were I to stuff them into an ascetic-like potli and how interesting a silhouette my favourite cake knife – shaped like Dahl’s enormous crocodile – would make.)
I’m thinking about what Margaret Atwood said, she who asks tough questions whilst simultaneously articulating the numinous into being: ‘Writers are often asked, How do you write? With a processor? An electric typewriter? A quill? Longhand? But the essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas – inspiration.” (And I’m thinking of forest clearings and waterfalls and valley views and my trusty and a little scratched desk with its view to the alstonia tree and my summer’s balcony harvest of sunset orange tomatoes which I daily will into a deeper red.)
The questions I ask about space are often the ones I ask about time, because, really, aren’t they, in essence, the same? Don’t time and space chase each other only to dovetail into that most elegant of forms – the hourglass? Or, more intuitively rendered as the ampersand hourglass?
As I wonder about time, ‘To keep or not or to Keep’ has obviously been Hamletified to ‘To do or not to do?’ as I work from home, scrappily mining the independent space whilst also minding dogs of wildly different agility and appetite (which basically comes down to multiple walks, differently paced and of varying distances). And most days when time’s broke in a disordered string, my To Do list runs away like the Pink Panther’s tune!
And it struck me the other day, as I settled into a chair perfectly angled for light and air and high enough for a dog to nap underneath… perhaps the apotheosis of time and space lies in the perfect chair!
When you settle into your perfect chair (it’s subjective), isn’t it a bit like losing yourself in a familiar song? Just think about that feeling which pulls you towards that inviting seat when you enter a room/ board the bus or tube … Yes, I think it is that perfect chair which beckons when you step across a threshold – empty, blank, waiting… for that which may yet define you. An emptiness that absorbs you whole. It reminds me of the clearing in forests that open up to so much light and possibility…
Perhaps Homer Simpson best explains my startling epiphany: “Marge, there’s an empty spot I’ve always had inside me. I tried to fill it with family, religion, community service, but those were dead ends. I think this chair is the answer.”
Slipping in Matisse in my ode to the chair, for said the painter who carved colour and form so beautifully: What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.
Or perhaps the answer to questions of time and space lies deeper… it will sink in more conclusively … in bed.
**Do time and space even matter if there’s no one to share either with? Does anything… even ice cream?