My Wobbly Bicycle, 169

Posted by on Apr 10, 2019 | 16 comments


I can see myself in my crib, pushing my fuzzy bunny from one side to the other, to see how it looks over there. I grew up in a very messy house, and I guess you could say that my decorating was to quell the storm. But more than that, I get aesthetic pleasure out of beautiful spaces. We had very little money when I was young, but that didn’t stop me. I painted a bookcase, I put up old curtains I found in a box. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I kept a notebook of decorating ideas. I pored over my favorite magazine, Metropolitan Home. I cut out pictures. I made a kitchen chandelier out of a metal flood-light shade. It’s a wonder I didn’t die of fumes from stripping and refinishing furniture. I recovered dozens of throw pillows.


My thesaurus wants to pair decorate with embellish, adorn, garnish, bedeck. Those feel wrong, so maybe decorate is the wrong word. I was trying to bring aesthetic harmony to the whole. Not harmony, maybe—not accord, synchronization, or congruence, exactly. I was trying to make a poem. In a poem you feel the parts speaking to each other but not necessarily smoothly. You feel they’re right, together, but not arranged.


I don’t think any of this had much to do with making an impression on others, although that’s nice. It was for me. It was—is—to please my own eye.


Our smaller cottage , the one Jerry and I live in at the lake, has looked like a dorm room forever. When we inherited it, it had second-hand furniture my step-grandmother had gotten from somewhere. We donated the sofa and the kitchen table and chairs to Goodwill. We brought a small table from Delaware and brought a futon from the big cottage.


This has been a long winter for so many reasons. I’ve had meniscus and hernia surgeries.  Not serious, but still. And my father died. And we’re coming to terms with Jerry’s very limited mobility. And I am in a funk with my writing. Not surprising, since I’ve reached an end point with two books.


So as not to allow myself to sink further into the slough of despond, I have been doing what I can with the little cottage! I ordered a new sofa, sent it back, ordered another (This is like me. I had to drive the hour to the lake in each case, of course.) We went on several expeditions for a different coffee table and other objects.


I’m a hunter. Give me a project, I’ll get my machete and basket and head into the jungle, all my senses on high alert. The more humble, the more inconsequential in the larger world, the better. I am the village woman, the picker of berries, the collector of bark for potions: you get what I mean.


Two months later—in snow so high we got stuck getting out of there and had to be rescued—we tried out a different paint color for the living room walls. Barely different, but we got rid of the mustardy tinge to the brown.


I found a vase that has the right shade of orange (my color) in it in a local antique store. Not expensive, but perfect. This is the thing. There is no difference in my joy in having found the perfect objet and my having found the perfect word. How do I know it’s perfect? I just do. I’ll fight to the death for that word, for that vase. It is somehow crucial. Later, I might change it, because the whole may have somehow shifted. But.


I’ve done a lot of this from home, from my head, from websites. It’s all in my head, actually. I try out so many things that way that my head is a revolving door of possibilities. The real thing can’t compare to the internal adventures.


Which, then, is the real thing? Hard to say.  Nonetheless, this aesthetic fiddling, as it has in the past, has gotten me through a dark patch. Surely the sun will shine soon, and the daffodils will begin to bloom.


From the poet Linda Gregg, who died in March: “What matters to me even more than the shapeliness and the dance of language is what the poem discovers deeper down than gracefulness and pleasures in figures of speech.” (Via The Washington Post) 








  1. I love this: “What matters to me even more than the shapeliness and the dance of language is what the poem discovers deeper down than gracefulness and pleasures in figures of speech.”

    • Yes, I found this after I’d written the post. It seemed just right.

  2. They surely will.

    • Hard to be sure today, isn’t it? Snow, cold, rain.

  3. I JUST TOOK A BREAK FROM REAARANGING OUR LOWER LEVEL…AND CAME TO THE COMPUTER TO REST. And there you were…Something about the soul of one when we move furniture and hang pictures …and dust! It all says spring….

    • I truly HOPE it says spring. Yay, you wrote a comment!

  4. “The best cure of for love–as Ovid knew centuries ago–is work.” That’s from Jenny Erpenbeck’s latest book, “Go, Went, Gone” (p. 4). But work works wonders for passing time when time is all too present. When we reach “an end point.” Not exactly “toil,” “slog,” “drudgery,” “exertion,” but perhaps “industry.”

  5. We now have late season daffodils in Virginia. And dogwoods and redbuds. Spring is coming. The vase is perfect.

  6. Sooo happy to read this. May all the sofas be reordered. And then maybe the world will be too.

    • Ah ha, yes. What a lovely thought, my friend.

  7. Your vase is beautiful. I also understand the aesthetic pleasure of arranging your living environment. When I haven’t been out scavenging or don’t have room for anything more (as is pretty much the case in our little winter cabin in the desert), I rearrange my books on the shelves and the staples in the kitchen cupboards and then stand back and admire those compositions. John Dewey would have understood.

    • Oh yes, he would. It’s the small things that seem to make so much difference.

  8. Love those small cottages. Liz

  9. So often, attending to the outside IS attending to the inside. I’m glad you’re decorating and enjoying it. 🙂

  10. PS Meniscus surgery in this quarter this winter as well. It wasn’t radically fun, but the results were pretty magical.

    • Yes, my knee feels pretty much normal. It’s the hernia surgery that’s taken a long time to recover from.

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