I moved my desk to be in front of my window. Somehow this makes it feel like I’m still part of the world. It reminds me that I still live in a city that exists beyond my apartment. It’s been six weeks since my access to it has been sharply curtailed. Today like yesterday the weather is grey and rainy. These are the days I find the hardest. When the sun is streaming through my front wall of windows, the place my desk is now, it all seems easier to bear.
I have several pieces of furniture in my apartment, including my desk, that have wheels. I think this probably can tell you something about the kind of stance I have towards change. Perhaps it confirms what you already know about my zodiac signs. I’m a Gemini who was also born in the Year of the Snake. Do you know those creatures that like to shed their skins? When the mood strikes my furniture on wheels allows me to re-arrange my space in ways that accommodate this element of my personality.
There’s a stand of brick row houses across the street from my building. They are three stories tall. Most of them are now painted dull brown or shades of grey and the drabness of the color makes them all blend together. They appear to be a solid block of housing. The houses are dressed in a uniform that strips them of their individuality. I am reminded of a barracks. I don’t like to look closely at them because they reflect the tedium of what daily life has now become. Built to house a middle class that has all but disappeared, it seems their unique character has too.
Yet, in front of my gaze if I sit up in my seat and look directly ahead are two outliers. The first is a solitary row house defiantly painted yellow with dark green doors, shutters, and cornice. What looks like gas lamps glow on each side of the door. In the transom window above the door, the same golden pinpoints of light shine through. I crane my neck forward and squint. A chandelier hung in the vestibule comes into focus and is revealed. This house I find out is a bed and breakfast, the reason for it’s sprucing up. Today it is quiet, the only person coming in and out is the caretaker masked and gloved. Planes that bring the people who fill its rooms are now silent and sitting still on the tarmac.
The second outlier can be found in the lot where two of the connected houses used to be. Given its’ size, the fir tree that fills the space must have been planted a long time ago. I imagine an unexpected fire might have swept through and destroyed the buildings that once stood there before help could arrive. The giant fir, taller than the row houses on either side is an anomaly on this avenue where there is no other green in sight. As this one proves, fir trees are long-lasting and resilient. As evergreens, they do not lose their leaves nor their color and remind us that life goes on. An evergreen in writing is something that can always come back into circulation and retains its’ relevance.
During these days I have a uniform of my own. I’ve taken to wearing silk pajama tops with my oldest, most faded and worn pair of jeans. My explorations into eco-literacy reassure me I am not a slob by not washing them even though they are worn every day. I’ve discovered jeans should be washed way less often for many reasons. With all the heaviness around me, the soft lightness of the silk hanging from my shoulders is all the load I feel like carrying right now. It allows me to indulge the aimless wandering and re-imagining about where I might find my place when the door opens again. It doesn’t demand any instant answers and for that I am grateful. The soft pastel flowers are blurred and remind me of my love of watercolors. Their fragility and whispered renderings a gentle nudge rather than a hard push.
There is something though about the weight and texture of my jeans that are grounding. Like the row houses I see in front of me, jeans in America are a symbol of those who work and of labor movements that created a middle class. Like the fir tree, my jeans seem to hold me and point me in an upright direction. As a child born in the 1950s jeans for me in the 1970s were a symbol of rebellion and non-conformity. Today they remind me of my father and my working-class roots. My silk pajama top reminds me of my grandmother and the life of privilege, luxury, and education she introduced me to. My clothes embody the merging of the public/private life I am living on-line. Just like the way I feel today, what I am wearing signifies a state of being in-between.
Today in the midst of my messy moodiness and in view of the defiant yellow row house and endlessly striving evergreen, I turn my body over and into my clothes. My clothes when I wear them are also a witness to the life I’m living today. The memories I associate with them keep me close to those I love. My silk shirt is like the shiny golden chandelier that beckons from the vestibule and my jeans a uniform as I try to manage a life that feels like it’s being lived in a kind of surreal captivity. So honoring the loss and sadness I feel yet allowing room for hope is the task for today.
What are your clothes witnessing today and what stories will they have to tell about it?