Monday, August 19, 2013

She plans to dream...

When I was a little girl, I used to sneak into our attic and curl up on my sleeping bag under the rafters with a pad of graph paper and draw my future home. In my head I had pictures of it: a stone-front mansion perched on the cliffs of Maine overlooking the Atlantic ocean. The inside would be cavernous, all high-ceilinged and warm-wood.

I drew floorplans, where every room took the shape of a rectangle, where the second of three floors consisted entirely of a library which I envisioned as one of those magical, two-story rooms with mahogany shelves and ladders and spiral iron staircases and a massive fireplace to read in front of and leather couches with white fur blankets slung over them to cuddle up in on cold night.

Looking back, I can see how utterly uncreative I was, that house all boxes and 90 degree angles. But I had my priorities right. And as I grew older, that library grew to be my writing room, a large mahogany desk taking center stage by the windows overlooking the cliffs and outstretched ocean. There would be a typewriter on that desk - one of those old black manual ones with the mother-of-pearl keys - and a banker's lamp, because nothing seemed cooler than a green-hooded lamp.

When I met the wonderful writers that became my first critique group, we talked about flying in from around the globe to meet somewhere, spend a weekend in a writer's heaven. It was a grand dream... grand enough for my Maine house. So that became our running joke - that we would meet there, at the Maine house. We'd write all day, and in the evenings we'd sit around and drink wine and talk about books and writing and all the things the people we saw everyday only vaguely understood. And I knew I'd need to put a porch on that deck for us all the sit out and enjoy the fresh air. So I imagined that porch into my dream.

More than a home, my dream became being with those writers, somewhere away from the traffic and superstores and raging suburbanites. And then I went to residency at Pacific. And I realized it wasn't just a dream. At least, not the house.

Every night, every lunch, every walk across campus I'd revel in the conversations of other writers. Late at night, we'd sit in our dorm living room and talk about oxford commas and diagram sentences and argue the value of certain writers. We talk about our writing, about careers, about dreams and dream crushers. It was a little slice of paradise.

A friend recently posted a poem on facebook called "Plans," by Stuart Dischell. If you want to read it, you can find it here. It begins:

She plans to be a writer one day and live in the City of Paris,
Where she will describe the sun as it rises over Buttes-Chaumont.
"Today the dawn began in small pieces, sharp wedges of light
Broke through the clouds." She plans to write better than this
And is critic enough to know "sharp wedges" sound like cheese.
She plans to live alone in a place that has a terrace
Where she will drink strong coffee at a round white table....

It made me think of my Maine house, and of my dreams, some of which have come true and others of which are still waiting for their day. Maybe I will never own that stone home on the cliff overlooking the ocean. Maybe I will never have a library that looks like something one would find at Cambridge. But it never hurts to dream it could still happen.

And in the meantime, I'll revel in the fact that I have what is most important about that dream: the friends who will gather with me - around a fireplace, a dorm room, or an email chat group - to drink a little wine, debate the merits of grammar rules, discuss books, and commiserate about how awful/awesome it is to be a writer. But mostly, how awesome.


  1. You know, if you are ever in Central Pennsylvania, you might want to consider this place:

    It's a hotel located inside the State Park. They have rooms similar to the one in that last photo.

    It's only 30 or so minutes from Penn State. This would be my writing retreat if I ever got to do such a thing.


    1. Beautiful! I should have known PA would have some great writing retreat locations!

  2. Oh, I loved this, Heidi. I love how our dreams can keep us going and come true, and sometimes in ways we never imagined. It is awesome to be a writer, isn't it?

    1. It certainly has it's moments. :) And as in most things in life, the best parts end up being the relationships.

  3. YES YES YES. I'm not kidding, I know the difference between dreams and plans, and how they can diverge or overlap. Some form of this is very possible! (Soon as the hay is paid for I'm saving up for this!!)

    I love your dream house. I'd happily settle for a small version of it!

    1. Yes - a good mix of planning and dreaming is ideal. :) We shall get our kids through college, of course, and buy the hay for the horses. But someday, that week on the cliffs will be ours!

  4. Oh the dream house... When I was in high school I had a dream house binder, and I'd cut out pictures from magazines and put them there. Now, as I search through lot and house listings, I'm trying to come to terms with what my "dream house" actually is. But I figure if we could actually afford our dream house there would be nothing left to dream about and then where would we be. Anyway, I like your Maine dream house. I'll come and sit on your porch when you manage it.

    And yes, I don't need a dream house around your company to make it your dream. I've thought a lot about that lately when I think, "If we can only get into our own house..." (we are renting now and have been for awhile)but then I remind myself that my house will still be peopled with the same family. That I'm living the dream NOW.