One of the things I’m realizing is how quickly you discover new things about yourself when you have your own space. I was over-the-moon excited about how I got my new place decorated. I refused to buy anything that clashed with my vision of what my first independent home was supposed to be, and the result paid off. It feels elegant to me, modern, full of things I find beautiful. It’s just the kind of retreat I’ve imagined, and new aspects of me are blooming.
For example, at least now in the honeymoon period of apartmentdom, I am considerably neater. It helps having the physical space to put my things, but it’s also the idea that it’s mine now, and if I want a clean kitchen or living room, it’s down to me to load the dishwasher and grab the dust cloth.
Did you know I am the kind of person who reads poetry every day? I didn’t.
When I was little and my dad had to put my sister and I to bed, he wouldn’t read us bedtime stories. He tried, at first, but since we were tiny and lacked a developed sense of social sympathy, we rejected his attempts at reading stories to us because he didn’t do the voices the way my mom did. His response? He turned to poetry (cool guy, my dad). He had this tattered, orange book from the Childcraft series and we would read poems together.
I had the entire first section of that book memorized. They were nursery rhymes, so they were easy, but I knew every one, every line, in order, the way you might know what song comes next on a favorite CD. I knew others in the book by heart, too. I still remember “The Lamplighter,” on page 103. I recited it once at camp. I still love “Vagabond Song,” the quintessential October poem, that I heard first at bedtime with my dad.
Perhaps because of this, I have very good associations with poetry. If I’m in a used bookstore, or have a Borders gift card, or poke through the 50-cent library discards, I am likely to leave with a book of poems in hand, more often than not by someone I’ve never heard of. I don’t read a whole lot of poetry, you see. I can only take in three or four poems in one go, max, so if I’m going to fill a 30-minute Metro ride, I need something else to pass the time. I don’t even really like reading poetry in noisy places. I’m romantic like that. I like the quiet room and the cup of tea to be there. The result is that I read lots of novels and stories, and tell people I love poetry, and then look blankly at them when they rattle off their favorites, because I don’t read it often enough to keep up.
This, of course, brings me to my current living situation. I don’t have the tea yet, in full disclosure, since grocery bills are freaking me out a little, and my first response is to cut the little indulgences, but I do have the poetry. Stacking and unstacking my bookshelf really brought it home: I have over twenty books of poetry. I have anthologies, I have trendy poets and poets who were trendy thirty or forty or fifty years ago, I’ve got books so pristine the spine isn’t even wrinkled and some that will need tape soon to keep their covers together. And I haven’t read more than two or three of them, until now. Now I can sit on my white couch in my quiet living room or lie in bed or on my kitchen floor if I want to and read poems. I’ve been doing a little experiment, starting and closing each day with a poem. I grabbed one of the anthologies, for variety, and it sits by my bed and every morning before I even groan that it is too early to be awake I read a poem, and then at night when I reach a good stopping-point in whatever other book I’m reading (or just get too tired to continue) I mark the page and get the anthology and read another poem, just before I turn out the light. It’s wonderful, bracketing my days in poetry, and while nothing was stopping me from doing this before, I never realized how beautiful and soothing a thing to do it was until I spent some time just listening to my own thoughts in this empty apartment.