There’s this picture of E.B. White sitting at his writing desk.
I believe he is in his one room beach cottage. Wooden table. Waste basket. Ash tray. Paper. Typewriter. There is a big window and you can see the water, along with another distant shore.
I used to have it taped above my writing desk, and then I moved, and things got messy.
The thing is, I rarely write at this desk. Usually it is done in my big brown chair, or in my bed. I’m sure if I was a writer, writer, I would have a place to go and write. It would mean business, I guess. It would mean I’d have to glue my ass to a chair and do whatever it is writer’s do. Imagine. Write a few crappy drafts. Leaning my head to the right a bit and saying, “Yeah..I like it!” Which I hardly ever say.
Now that I am moving, I’m considering having to leave it behind. It is just a desk, after all. I put so much weight into these things sometimes. It is a sacred place, at times. More often than not, it is a place for my used tea and coffee mugs, a clay statue of a cat I won in a raffle, some pens and a small wooden statue of St. Francis of Assisi.
Within these drawers are pictures, old checkbooks, envelopes. You know, the usual.
As I dig deeper I find old letters. I find a fifty rupee note from India. Some drawings. My granddad’s old watch from Germany. I hold it tightly in my hand. I shake it and it comes back to life. I put it on my wrist, for a few seconds, so it told me. I put it back in its place and think of him.
Sometimes I catch myself getting excited like he did. Sometimes I rub my hands together like he did, and I am filled to the brim with his warmth. All from a wrist watch, you see?
I find her letters to me. I’ve done well at digging them out, but today, I found a few. I did not allow myself to read, as I’ve done in the past. I have made peace with that person. At least tonight I have.
When they say things like, forever and love and only you; it’s like taking a line drive to the chest.
It all stings much less, these days. I am beginning to separate those times a bit. No, I will not hold on to them. They were once very meaningful to me. They were things I had hoped to come back to, from time to time. To remember. But they have washed off these walls.
I hung on to this desk through the move. It is a nice solid wooden desk, that I am afraid I will have to leave behind.
But that’s okay. I imagine I won’t have trouble finding a good home for it. That’s what I love about these things. When they become part of someone else’s story — when the desks start writing for themselves.
Like the headboard I gave away to the mom with three little sons — that piece of wood will watch them grow up as a family. I believe things hold the weight of our ghosts. There is history in the grains of our effects.
So as I write on this desk, I am reminded of the place I am in, and the places I am going.
I will take my words with me, and it will continue to be a surface for a good book or candle or another person aspiring to explore the depths of their own heart.
It will remember the letters it once held;
and I will remember them, too.