When I was a child, my favorite place to read was inside my grandmother’s walk-in closet. It was dark and warm, a quiet place to take a book and get lost in another world. The clothes hanging from the racks above my head dampened the raucous, summery noises of Florida, and the pile of pillows I kept stacked behind my back made it feel like I was reclining on a cloud.
Best of all, there were no boys allowed. This was key because my little brother and my cousin drove me mad, always wanting to play or get dirty or take the row boat out into the alligator-infested waters. At 11, none of these activities interested me. I just wanted to escape into “my room,” turn on a small lamp and read through the stacks of books I had borrowed from the library.
That summer, James Thurber introduced me to Walter Mitty, and filled my mind with dreams and possibilities. Although doing so felt invasive, I read Anne Frank’s diary, and cried at the hardships she and her family suffered at the hands of the Nazis. I also became best buds with Edgar Allan Poe. Whenever I search my memory for that summer at my grandmother’s house, I can still hear the dead man’s heart beating under the closet floor.
As an adult, I’ve read in cars, on trains, on planes, on couches and beds, in cafes, diners, libraries and in line. But it wasn’t until my honeymoon that I discovered another reading spot that rivaled my old walk-in closet.
M and I rented a lovely cottage in the Highlands of Scotland. Downstairs, in the family room, there was a wall of windows, with a stunning view of Loch Broom and the hills beyond. If you stared out those windows long enough, you could see four different types of weather in just 15 minutes. Or perhaps you’d spy a large ship pulling into the port of Ullapool.
On another wall, a stone fireplace filled the room with warmth, a soft light and a charming crackle. To the right of the couch was an upholstered chair and ottoman. While M was out exploring the backyard or climbing a nearby Marilyn, I parked myself in that chair. I stared at the fire and glanced out the windows while curled up under a periwinkle and cream throw. And, of course, I read.
It was heaven.
I returned to that very spot a couple of years later, and wrote the final chapter of my novel. Sometimes you sit at the computer and stare at the screen for hours, unable to see the words hidden in the whiteness of the screen. Sometimes, when the stars align and your muse is feeling generous, the words just flow like butter. On that day, in that chair, I closed my eyes and rapidly typed, eager to get the story on the page and fearful of losing the momentum of inspiration. When I finished the chapter, and wiped away the tears that trailed down my cheeks, I knew what I had written was golden.
That is the power of a good spot.
–Photo by Zsuzsa N.K.