This morning, I was inspired to write a response to Douglas Coupland’s blog “The Writer’s Room” which was sent to me by my friend – and author – Gretchen Houser –> http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/the-writers-room/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
The Writer’s Room is that sanctuary space where an author’s imagination has no bounds. One can close out the world, and enter a safe haven where ideas fly and swirl like witches on brooms to be snatched down and admonished onto paper.
When I left the corporate jungle (four years ago) and began my career as an author, my writer’s room was downstairs in one corner of my husband’s music library with my desk tucked under the stairwell. The décor of the music library celebrates African cultures and is set off by baskets, various drums, and pipe whistles. A hunter’s shield from the Masai tribe is the centerpiece of the room. We bought the shield from a tribal member who was visiting the college my husband taught, part of a cultural exchange. The tribe member’s ancestors had used the shield for many years, on hunts and possibly even during skirmishes.
Each evening my husband and I would go to bed and after he fell asleep I would slide out from under the blankets and sneak downstairs to my version of The Writer’s Room where I would summon my Civil War ancestors as I penned “The Jenkins of Baltimore.” In the hours between midnight and 5:00 a.m. my ancestral aunts and uncles would tell me their stories. I would transcribe as they laughed, argued, and mourned their losses. I could even hear them, in my mind, discussing our publishing roots and how the Jenkins family survived Lincoln’s shut down of the Baltimore presses. I was entranced, following the Ghosts of Baltimore’s Past. And, I was comfortably at home with My Writer’s Room for quite a while.
After one vivid incident two years ago, and in spite of its rich African colors, and radiant-heat coziness, I decided that I had to move my writer’s room upstairs to the kitchen table. It was 3:00 a.m. and I was working furiously on one of my novels, lost to the world around me — in a “zone” as they say.
Suddenly, with absolutely no warning whatsoever, I heard birds fluttering just above my head! The experience was so real I ducked and cowered!
The birds were beating their wings furiously against the Masai tribal shield that was hanging in the music library. I could distinctly hear the birds thrashing, tangling themselves in their terror. Their claws scratched against the back of the shield frantically. I was frozen, my heart beat as wildly as the wings of the trapped birds who seemed to be caught between the back of the shield and the flat of the wall. My hair stood on end. I broke out in the prickle of a cold sweat. The room was chilled and I drew my shawl around me. There was nothing I could do to save the birds. The unworldly noise, contrasted to the quiet of the house, was eerie, unsettling. I was sure that my husband could hear the birds scuffle for survival, though I had left him sleeping soundly two floors up on the bedroom level.
The birds were caught in a universe parallel to my own — the Masai tribal shield was their portal. The disturbance went on for about three minutes. Then, one by one the birds quieted. My intuition told me they were suffocating, or beating themselves to death behind the shield.
It had been quite a while since The Other World had broken through into mine and for days my nerves were raw from the encounter. But as time continued on, my nerves settled down. However, I never again felt comfortable or creative around the African relics.
I used the phenomenon that I had experienced in my story, “Haunted House for Rent ~ Seattle” and took up residence at the kitchen table where I could observe the crows fly across our rooftop from the kitchen window. And it is from this space that the inspiration for my movie-tribute to Alfred Hitchcock “The Crows” struck.
Have you ever had an experience where one of your five senses “reacts” to something so unworldly that you remember the encounter for years after? Tell me about it ~ I’m here. . . waiting to hear from You.
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