There are nine objects on top of my desk, and three of these have their own stories. The more important story is what lies between.
An ancient Olivetti squats center stage. It’s black, bulky, and oddly accordion-like on top. I found it at a yard sale while walking to a friend’s debut at a local jazz club. Not that I would recommend carrying a thirteen-pound metal object through the streets of Chicago, but I have to admit that nobody approached me while it was tucked under my arm. That in itself was a novelty. The rest of that night was novel as well, and it lead to my first short story banged out on those very keys.
There is a sandalwood box to the right of the typewriter. If left out in the afternoon light, it warms to a fragrant scent. Sometimes I tuck it on the windowsill to bring back Bareilly. I worked there for fifteen days and nights, sleeping in a corner stall and spending the days tending to the press of people streaming through our makeshift door. It was a short visit, a busman’s holiday, and I was grateful for the scents of cedar and sandalwood amid sickness and despair.
To the left is a horse netsuke carved from cherry. The head arches back over the spine, teeth bared. At first glance it seems to be writhing in agony, but a closer look reveals a look of laughter. This was a gift from my mentor. I learned about joy in the work from him.
In between the typewriter, box, and carving is empty space. I’ve come to crave space more than almost any other thing. Space for my eyes to rest away from distraction, space to stretch out on the floor, and clean space in the corners of my head just as much as in the corners of my kitchen. Space to remember and to think. The longer I live, the less I want to own, and the more I want of less. So much clings with us through life. It stifles. It dulls the mind. There is no room left to create.
The space in between things is where meaning is made. In the body itself, the perisinusoidal space is the area between the liver cells and the blood vessels which serve them. Under a regular microscope, it looks barren. However, this place is where the antigen-rich external world meets the inner body. This is the space of Disse, the intimate interface teeming with life and activity. Here is where the action is. Here is where the living is done.
I think of the empty spaces in my life as room for inspiration. This is where what has come before meets who I am now. I live in between things, in the middle of competing claims on my time and energy. I am carving out a space for myself in the midst of chaos.
It is more than enough.