All I Needed Was a Hood

My last visit to Home Depot – one of many recent runs there during my project of converting an 1865 Maine barn into an apartment – turned into a sweet and odd reminder of my writing life. That writing life that often gets sidelined as soon as I have “more pressing” things to do, like move, get a kid off to college, build a home…But the sales person who helped me navigate the dizzying ventless hood options quickly revealed he was an avid journaler with a penchant for storytelling.

A man in his 50s, he was a far cry from the “Home Depot Guy” one might expect; ┬áhis tall and lean figure with thin, delicate gesticulating hands and animated and dainty facial expressions produced an energy loaded with charmingly feminine affect. His lips pursed just so every few seconds and his eyes would widen and roll while his eyebrows rose and fell or frowned to give more expression to his speech. He would lean in or sway back while elaborating about his own ventless hood fan home renovation story, that soon enough included references to his father’s voice chastising him from the grave about not installing it correctly.

He had me at how hearing his dead father’s voice commenting on his activities was such a meaningful part of his experience, or how his dad was still an influential and lively presence, despite having been gone for several years. I know what that feels like.

From talking about his own father’s opinions, expectations and disappointments, the conversation (which was mostly a monologue) quickly turned to his own experience of fatherhood, and how his own grown sons were so hard to reach, both physically and emotionally. So, he said, he journals in order to be able to one day leave them a document where they can, when they are ready, learn more about their dad’s inner life. The painful time leading up to the divorce (I suspected he had decided to come out in mid-life, since he made some indirect references to that effect, and this had caused a domino effect of challenges for both him and his family), the misunderstandings, the things unsaid, the things that can’t be undone…the love. The need to tell ones story.

I finally left Home Depot with an affordable yet sleek, stainless and Italian-designed hood, sure to make my cooking forays more pleasant and less stinky. That felt like a relief. But the part about that early morning Home Depot run that truly felt gratifying, was having spent a few minutes listening to Barry, my fellow storyteller, which in turn inspired me and reminded me of my inner calling, which in turn brought me back to my keyboard. Here. Now.

I live and love my life of “yang” – of movement and action – as much as I love and strive for more “yin” – stillness and meditation. The first is easy for me; it’s in my blood and having the shpilkes is┬ásimply part of who I am. That energy is often the catalyst for all the practical “stuff” I am so efficient at getting done. As a kid, I’d run around my Oslo neighborhood and either help people or got into trouble. I didn’t sit much. I didn’t read much. Sitting and writing – or just sitting – is not so obvious for me. But the storyteller in me reminds me to, is constantly tugging and nudging me in that direction, again and again. Sometimes it just takes a little listening to remember.

Home Depot


A Ritual: Butt in Chair

The greatest challenge for a writer can be just getting her rear in the chair. And staying there. Without letting herself be distracted by all sorts of easy, at the fingertips fun stuff, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even emails. Anything else but hunkering down and getting to work on the current project at hand, or worse yet, the new project.

Heck, I’ll even joyfully empty the dishwasher, fold laundry or pay bills rather than get my butt in the chair, unplug, and simply write. It’s a common malady.

Today I woke up and decided to begin – again – to take my vocation more seriously. I love Mondays for this reason, they make me feel like the whole world is in on helping me rally to get a new start. The saying “onward and forward!” has more oomph to it on a Monday morning. Somehow.

After a shower, a healthy breakfast, I resolve to get my yoga mat from my car to do some stretches during the day when I need a break. Not open Facebook, not begin the emailing craze; the emails certainly don’t go anywhere. I light the tea light nestled in my favorite small Gustav Klimt glass holder and place it on my desk next to my computer. I think of my writer friend in Paris who with the same candle flickering next to her, urges me on: “Write!” she tells me, “write all those stories you have inside you!”

On my way to the bathroom to dry my hair I gather up weeks worth of NYTimes Book Reviews, and decide to stop reading about books, and instead read more books, and write more stories.

And then, finally, I sit down and think, “Here I am. Let the faucet open” as my fingers run over the keyboard.