I have a home office with a bed in it which doubles as a guest room twice a week (friends from out of town who have to be in Toronto one night a week for work, one working for the AGO, the other a farmer who sells at a market here). Of course, we don’t have guests right now. So the bed is an ambivalent object at present. The desk is an old folding desk, which belonged to my grandfather and isn’t really meant for sitting at for hours, more for writing letters and paying bills, but I love it. It’s got pigeonholes and a compartment that locks with a key, which my kids really like.
“I keep a few things on the desk that feel significant. A chestnut my father brought from out front of my grandmother’s house after she died, my grandfather’s pen that I never use.”
The space is often messy—receipts and library books and old toner cartridges I haven’t dealt with, but I hope that’s evidence that writing happens in the middle of your life and not to one side, rather than that I’m just lazy about cleaning. I keep a few things on the desk that feel significant. A chestnut my father brought from out front of my grandmother’s house after she died, my grandfather’s pen that I never use. I keep those side by side—the two of them had a cosmically disastrous marriage that I might try writing about someday, and hadn’t seen each other in forty years or so when she died. An inkwell that belonged to my great-grandfather, which his parents gave him after he got back from WWI needing to very painfully relearn to use his hands—I still can’t decide if this gift is unconsciously cruel or deeply loving. So it seems like a good double-edged talisman to keep in view. So many intimate gestures are almost impossible to interpret and can’t be easily explained, and I think when writing feels most successful is when I believe, or hope, that I’ve described something plainly while leaving the mystery of it intact. That doesn’t happen very often, but it’s nice when it does.
Kate Cayley has published a collection of short stories and two collections of poetry. Her second collection of short stories is forthcoming from Biblioasis.