Here at the top of our cul-de-sac, with the air still and June sky clear, I can hear a woman’s far-off, tinny voice calling: Brent to reception, please, Brent to reception. Through the trees and across the cove, over on the highway strip, the car lot speaker carries its announcements all the way to my dining room where I sit at the table, windows open, deck doors open, laptop open, waiting for a poem to crackle.
Because I have trouble sitting in one spot too long, I keep shifting my writing space. Within a single day, I might move from the dining room table to the brown couch to the red chair, then to the upstairs office where I can stand at the desk and look down over the sidewalk and road, seeing who comes and goes. I watch them all—the recycling truck guy on his route, the white-haired lady with her tiny white dog, the young man who grows thinner and thinner by the week.
Though I prefer to work in a quiet space, I’m happy to let the world steal my gaze while I write, happy to let the sounds and sights of what’s outside mingle with what’s brewing inside. As my fingers rest on the keys and I wait for a thought to claim its true syntax, I watch the alder tree respond to the wind, a green rush that leans wherever it’s blown. The wind chimes hanging at the front door filter in, a silver opus in D. An airplane sputters overhead. The refrigerator ticks and hums. Even the domestic and suburban world can sizzle with beauty when the mind is alive to it. I’ve been fiddling with a poem, stumped on a stanza, only to hear the eerie digital ditty of the ice cream truck tinkling past my house and experience a flash of memory—some vivid image from childhood—that answers the riddle on the page.
And when I’m not moving from room to room inside the house, I move outdoors. A simple task like watering the greenhouse or picking strawberries or pulling weeds can create a space for writing, too. Away from the screen’s blinking cursor, I’ll often find an image’s expansion into metaphor, as if the physical act of moving outside somehow kicks open the poem’s bolted door. A walk up the road to buy eggs at the farm, a trek around the lake trail, a bike ride to the grocery store—these all become extensions of the writing studio, more rooms in which to mull and meditate, to pace and pedal my way toward a higher thought. As I climb the hill for home where the half-wrought poem waits, I listen for what’s speaking—a quail’s Chi-ca-go call from the roadside weeds, a rumble of a passing truck, the wind—same wind that swings the chimes above my porch—whistling in my ear.