Tuesday, February 14, 2012

SANCTUARY

It was small as closets go, with bi-fold doors painted shiny white. The doors were louvered as if to provide ventilation to something alive that resided within. But over the ten years I played and slept in that bedroom no living creature ever emerged.

My little sherbet colored cotton dresses with their long sashes that Mom tied in big bows at my back only reached a short way down from the closet rod, leaving lots of space for the really important pieces of my childhood.

Born a rigid little girl, I’ve never had tolerance for clutter or disorganization and apparently that trait began way back then in the confines of that closet. To the left was a neat stack of boxes that held all the clothes and accessories for the dolls that sat on the top of my bookcase. Next to that was the pink vinyl tote box that I took to dancing school. It carried my leotards, ballet and tap shoes and in its corners dreams of prima ballerinas and bouquets of red roses offered to me center stage. Next in line were stacks of puzzles, board games and art kits. Venus paradise colored pencil kits and paint by number oil paint kits. And to the far right was a stack of coloring books and paper doll books. Well, not the far, far right. Despite the midget size of the closet I was able to leave a small corner for a silk baby blanket, a silk pillow from my crib that had my name embroidered in the smoothest of dark pink thread and privacy as rich and decadent as an Ebinger’s blackout cake.

It was in that corner that I huddled when I needed sanctuary from the noise of large family gatherings, or just to browse through picture books by myself, even when the house was quiet and still. Later it became a hiding place from dark secrets, broken hearts, and unkempt promises.

I’ve never outgrown that need for my own private small space. Over the years I’ve found it in far corners of my backyard, a rocking chair in the corner of my bedroom, and during lucky years a whole room just for me to hide in. I’ve found it in a stretch of sunwashed beach, a park bench, a cafĂ© table; anyplace I can carve out a space devoid of people or noise.

In these caverns of solitude I have penned poems of sadness and joy, short stories of complete fiction and novels threaded with more truth than I care to share. I’ve painted my fears and depressions in both bold and subtle acrylics or transparent watercolors. I’ve created dolls that become my muses and scrapbooks that preserve the love of family. I’ve been frantically creative or silently pensive in these sanctuaries. I need these spaces and have even used hotel bathrooms for journal writing while on vacation.

No matter where I find my little corners of solitude, when I am in them I can still smell the musty floorboards from that closet. I can feel the silk of the pillow and blanket on the tips of my fingers and I can hear my heartbeat the way it echoed in my ears while captured in that small space.

I believe no matter where I go I will always be able to find the solitude and space I need in which to just be me. I know I would never live anywhere that didn’t afford that small corner of some room, or even a whole room. I think Virginia Woolf was right. A woman needs a room of her own, even if it’s only the back corner of a closet, where no one can find her except her own soul.