Thursday, March 22, 2007


When my sister moved into the family house, which she and I
own and our mother lives in, we borrowed money for some repairs
and improvements. My share of the payment on the equity loan
came to a bit more than I was then paying UHaul to store my
books, so I commandeered a room for them in the house.

Redecorating that room was one of the improvements. By the
time I took possession, it had white, painted walls instead of
the ancient blue-flowered wallpaper with brown water stains from
the 1938 hurricane, and a reddish-brown neutral carpet instead of
deteriorating linoleum. It even had heat. My sister made me
some green and burgundy drapes. I adopted a white table lamp
that wasn't being used and bought it a burgundy shade.

Other than that, my approach to interior decoration was to
line the place with books. I covered all the available walls
with cinderblock and particleboard shelves and a few real
bookcases that I happened to own, and the bulk of my husband's
and my combined libraries moved in. A couple of years ago, I
replaced the 16-inch blocks in two of the units with 12-inch
blocks, significantly increasing the available shelf space.
There's one unit left with 16-inch blocks, but those may have to
stay: the holes in the blocks are perfect for pens and pencils,
Chap-Stick, dental floss, a nail clipper, and one or two other
small objects that I would have to find other homes for.

After the shelving upgrade, I achieved a long-cherished goal
of equipping my room with a recliner, by the clever expedient of
putting it on the charge card and promising myself that I would
figure out how to pay for it when the bill came. As Stark Munro
(one of Conan Doyle's other fictional doctors), trying to estab-
lish himself in practice, said of the gas bill due in a month or
so, "Any number of things may have happened by then."

The recliner rests in a corner within arm's reach of the
cinderblock pigeonholes. Also close by are a plant stand that
supports a mug of tea, a few books of poetry, and a box of
tissues; a small table comfortably littered with papers; a pile
of books on the floor that I plan to get back to soon; and a
wastebasket. What more could any rational creature want? Well,
yes, there's a bathroom at the end of the hall and a kitchen
downstairs. There's also a cordless phone when I remember to
bring it in from the front hall, half a mile away.

The back window looks over the field and the woods behind
the house. The window beside the recliner faces the house next
door, across the lawns and some trees. The view from the
recliner is mostly the second story of the barn, with sky and
treetops; but in the spring, I set morning glories in a large
planter directly under that window and provide them with strings
that lead to the top of the window. By the end of June I have
vines to look at, and flowers from July through September. Like
Charles Darwin, I admire climbing plants.

I wonder at odd moments what seven cinderblock-and-particle-
board shelves and the books on them weigh, what kind of shape the
hundred-year-old floor is in under the carpeting, and what might
be the first symptoms of an imminent, so to speak, breakthrough.
I especially think of this when reading in Little Dorrit or Bleak
House about the collapse of elderly houses in nineteenth-century
London. But as long as the ceiling under my library shows no
sign of cracking, I will continue to climb into my recliner and
tranquilly read myself crosseyed every weekend.