My desk, an antique my mother gave me, was against the window. I could see the neighbor's yard with its piled lobster traps and four pit bulls. I usually kept the curtain pushed aside with the stack of books I needed as totems, my back to the bowed shelves of the bookcase. There was a blue mug filled with pens. A pile of notes and revisions, my laptop. Little else.
I was earning an MFA and my days were my own to organize. I wrote in the morning. First I would wake early and go for a run. Past an old cemetery, harbors, boats in the yards of tired colonials, before returning to my own. A shower, hot water for tea, and then to the desk. My writing lived within those routines and that space almost exclusively. I couldn't write successfully anywhere else.
And then I graduated and moved. In the past two years I have not lived in the same place for more than five months. Yurts, cabins, farms. Alaska, the Caribbean, Washington, and Europe. Without the consistency of my life in Maine my work ethic suffered. I wrote sporadically and not always when I could have. It seemed I was always packing and unpacking. Forwarding my mail address and training for new jobs. I had to leave most of my books behind. Sometimes I would be months without a computer. Pobrecita, a boyfriend called me as a term of endearment. You poor little thing.
I spent a summer in Spain. There was a thick harvest of wildflowers that year, which brought about herds of butterflies. I mistakenly called them mentirosas instead of their Spanish name, mariposa. Look at all those liars, I would say. Beautiful. I wasn't writing then, either. I didn't carry a notebook or a pen. There was never enough time. I had to pack light. I was overwhelmed, making friends, and drinking a lot of good, cheap wine.
Now I am back in Europe and things have somehow changed. I am sitting to write at a shared desktop at the University of Lisbon. In four hours I leave for Lithuania. The room has one small window near the ceiling and two men sit behind me, talking loudly as they eat dinner. The food smells good, the computer is old and wheezing. I am already distracted when another man begins fumbling with the light switch, taking us all in and out of darkness.
Still, I type. There is now a quiet urgency that grew sometime while living in Washington, back in a quiet village on the water. But without a computer the last couple months, it means I resort to notebooks, napkins, or sometimes the slow precision of my iPhone. Words are tucked into every pocket. They fall out of books, purses, and laundry, or are accidentally pasted into emails to my mother.
This is how it always should have been. Not just during my travels, but also in the quiet ordered years that I lived in Maine. Something that I will now allow to spill out of me without restraint or order. Trailing me into bars, airports, Thanksgiving dinners, and even the quiet mornings set aside for just this exactly.