Dreaming and Decorating

Status report: It’s been a dreadful day. Would you like to know what I did for most of it? Well, I’m going to tell you. When I first wrote Chapter 2, I used the Penguin edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray. But the scholarly edition, the edition used by scholars in their research – what they call the authoritative version – is the Oxford Complete Works. So what I did today was go through the last section of Chapter 2, which is on Dorian Gray and “The Soul of Man under Socialism” (for which I had used the Harper & Row Complete Works), check all the quotations, and correct all page numbers in the parenthetical citations. Every single one. It took hours.

I keep telling myself that I’m learning valuable things in this process, but sometimes I’m so bored that I could sob into my decorative pillows, and sometimes I’m so bitter that I could kick the walls. And I’m starting to feel the way I felt when I was working as a corporate lawyer: as though I’m spending time that I could be spending doing so many other things – writing stories that people are actually going to read, for instance. I think my disenchantment with academic writing started the day I went to a seminar on publishing academic books and learned that selling 3,000 copies was considered a success – an academic best-seller. At that point, I had already published my short story collection, and it had sold well over 3,000 copies. And I thought, but I want people to read what I write. I don’t want my work to sit in a library somewhere, where only graduate students consult it. I want to communicate.

So, as I mentioned, today was dreadful. Once my work was done, I had to do something. I didn’t know what – it was already seven o’clock, and here I was in the suburbs, with nowhere to go. Stuck.

So I did the best I could. When I’m feeling desperate, I usually try to make or change something. So I went to the fabric store and bought a pillow insert, so I could make a pillow out of the fabric I bought yesterday. I don’t have time to actually make it now, but at least I have everything I need, for when I have the time. Then, I went to the bookstore and bought three decorating books. These, specifically:

Something seems to have happened to decorating, and I think it’s a good thing. It’s an interest in a more casual, artistic, cottage style. That’s the style I like best, using older pieces, making rooms beautiful, comfortable, filled with space and light. But also quirky, with individuality and character. Each of these books is about that style. I bought the French General book specifically because I like the French General aesthetic: it’s actually a store in California that sells all sorts of things, including fabric designed by the owners. Here is the store’s website.

So today I’m completely despondent, but at least tonight I’ll have beautiful pictures to look at. And I’ll think about what I want in the house I’m going to have, someday. That Witch’s Cottage I’ve been wanting for so long, with the high, airy rooms, and the old wooden furniture, and the claw-foot tub. And the cat sitting in the window, while white gauze curtains blow in the breeze. (With an enormous garden, filled with roses and herbs, and a sundial, and a pond.) That’s the sort of thing I need to keep me going, when I’m dealing with everything I’m dealing with now. That dream, and the knowledge that I’m working to make it a reality.

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4 Responses to Dreaming and Decorating

  1. Your Witch’s Cottage sounds delightful. You will need a tea service composed of carefully chosen individual cups and saucers and teapot, none of which actually match.

  2. Erzebet says:

    You and I are on the same path – I’m working toward my little witch’s cottage, too. It seems like such a long road, but we’ll get there. I know we will. 🙂

  3. Margaret Fisher Squires says:

    You are doing such a good, workmanlike (workpersonlike) job of burrowing through the dissertation work. I congratulate you. You are making great progress, and I do believe the end is in sight! Although I’m sure there are moments when the vision blurs.

    Something like 32 years post-dissertation, I rarely think of my dissertation nor of the process of producing it. It was worth doing because the Ph.D. paved the road to my career as a psychotherapist. (This paragraph is meant to be encouraging, somehow.)

    Hurrah for books on decorating, and thoughts of the Witch’s Cottage to come! Looking at the Normandy Rose pattern and the covers of the decorating books, I wonder if perhaps the poem below might offer some relieving color in your next dull gray dissertation day. (But feel free to ignore it. I want to enliven, not intrude.)

    The Secret Lives of Flowers

    Violets unfold tiny heart-shaped leaves,
    dandelions spring up,
    roses burgeon on last year’s woody stems.
    Ordinary, annual miracles.

    Such blooms pass their winter’s dormancy
    inside twig or root,
    but it is obvious at a glance
    that some blossoms
    spend their winters very differently.
    If you delved through frozen clods,
    no doubt you would find rhizome or bulb:
    Empty shapes only, the essence flown.

    Irises stay underground,
    but not in some rough root shape.
    Irises travel minute corridors
    through loam and clay
    until they reach the cavern halls of Faerie,
    buried deep,
    bright and fragrant all the winter long
    with beeswax candles, sandalwood torches,
    fires of apple logs.

    The Fairies welcome the Iris Ladies.

    The Iris Ladies eat from silver plates,
    and drink from golden goblets,
    waited upon by enchanted mouse maids
    and squirrel pages.

    They wear gowns of silk and velvet,
    made in the hues of their summer petals.

    They carry on languid flirtations
    with Fairy Knights
    who hold elaborate tourneys to impress them.
    Little blood,
    but much sounding of trumpets.

    No wonder when we pass a stand of irises,
    we think of heraldry,
    and feel an impulse
    to bow or curtsey.

    Peonies leave the soil altogether.
    In dark of moon,
    black-winged sea birds with huge amber eyes
    swoop down to the peonies
    and gather them in their beaks.
    Flower-freighted, they wing through blackness
    to the darkly glittering ocean.

    The sea birds drop the peonies,
    which fall to the waves
    and sink down, down,
    through layers of warmth and cold..
    They root themselves in silver sand
    beside forests of living coral.

    The peonies become sea anemones
    and spend the winter months
    trailing delicate tentacles
    through salt tropic currents.

    As summer comes,
    they pluck themselves free
    and drift up to float
    on the dancing ocean surface.
    In the dark of the moon,
    the birds come,
    and gather them,
    and fly them back
    to their glossy-leaved bushes.

    Then black ants scurry
    where lately darted tiny fishes.

    Now, as for snapdragons—
    but I see
    by the wondering delight in your eyes
    that you already know all about snapdragons.

    -Margaret Fisher Squires

  4. deanna says:

    the french inspired home is one of my personal faves! it has tons of wonderful bits of inspiration 🙂

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