In Writing

I follow a bunch of Instagram accounts for real estate and decor. This morning, one of them posted a listing that absolutely melted my heart. It caught my eye because the house was beautiful, and for sale, but mostly because it was the home of an author, and not far from my house. It was an exquisite $3 million + house, and my first thought was, “Oh my goodness, a successful author can afford a three million dollar house?” (Further sleuthing revealed that her husband is an investment banker, which probably helps). Feast your eyes here.

For some reason, fantasizing about owning this home (which has, among other things, my dream library, fashioned after the library of Sir Walter Scott) I was reminded of a passage from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I loved this book as a teenager, the tale of an awkward and insecure young woman who marries the lord of a beautiful manor, but feels the specter of his stylish, rich, refined, dead wife everywhere in his grand estate of Manderley.

More than anything else in the book, I loved the description of the morning-room, the room where the former Mrs. de Winter started her day after breakfast. Well, first, I was mesmerized by the thought that a house could have such a thing as a morning-room, a room specifically for the lady of the house to conduct her business and organize her day. I grew up in a 900-square-foot rented house on a 25×100 lot, and my room was the one intended to be the dining room. I didn’t even yet know about more mundane things like guest rooms.

Beyond that, the description of the room was luscious:

This was a woman’s room, graceful, fragile, the room of someone who had
chosen every particle of furniture with great care, so that each chair,
each vase, each small, infinitesimal thing should be in harmony with one
another, and with her own personality. It was as though she who had arranged
this room had said: ‘This I will have, and this, and this,’ taking piece
by piece from the treasures in Manderley each object that pleased her
best, ignoring the second-rate, the mediocre, laying her hand with sure
certain instinct only upon the best.

And it went on:

But this writing-table, beautiful as it was, was no pretty toy where a
woman would scribble little notes… I opened a drawer at hazard, and
there was the writing once more, this time in an open leather book,
whose heading ‘Guests at Manderley’ showed at once, divided into
weeks and months, what visitors had come and gone,
the rooms they had used, the food they had eaten.
… There was notepaper also in the drawer, thick white
sheets, for rough writing, and the notepaper of the house, with the crest,
and the address, and visiting cards, ivory white, in little boxes.

I was obsessed with this morning-room, by the description of the rich stationary, the elegant pens. I went back to the passage again and again. Over time, it began to feel like a room I’d been to, the grand lady beckoning me inside, letting me see its windows thrown open, the bright rhododendron outside. I could smell it, imagine its refined wallpaper, its muted colors. The description ignited my imagination, not just due to the writing (although, this morning I was delighted to see that it does hold up beautifully), but by the life it let me glimpse, one of special rooms for special things. My mind went back to the memory of it time and again over the years.

I mention it because chances are good I won’t ever be able to afford a three million dollar house (although, call me a dreamer, I don’t completely rule it out as impossible). But, I was delighted to realize that I do have something akin to that morning room now. It’s not in an ancient English estate. It’s in my modest home in New Jersey. But when it came time to update my spare bedroom, and I decided to turn it into a writing room, I too chose every particle of furniture with care. I too placed in it only the objects that pleased me best. I hunted long and hard for a desk that would inspire me, a graceful, cream-colored, feminine thing. I found and assembled a bookshelf of a matching color,  with bun feet, and space for all my writing craft books. I dedicated one full shelf exclusively to gorgeous journals, some filled with my scribbles, some yet to be touched. I created a shelf that was an altar to Hekate, because it made me think of feminine power, and behind it I put a cherished framed picture of Wonder Woman, with the words, “It’s about what you believe, and I believe in love,” gifted to me by a special someone. Every detail, every thing was all mine, and the room still has the power to make me feel like I have superpowers of the wordsmithing variety, which is exactly what one needs to face the bruising business of publishing.

It had been thirty years since my imagination had been ignited by the thought of a morning-room, but it obviously lived in some part of my mind. When the time came to create a sanctuary where I could feel my best, I drew on long-lost memories of Manderley.

What does this have to do with the three million dollar house? I suppose it is a lesson in longing vs. having. I have structured a lot of my life around longing, reaching and hoping for things much too big for my current circumstances. I don’t think it’s bad to long, to let an impossibly huge dream ignite and live within you. It has driven me all my life, and I am nowhere near done yet. But I am at the point of my life in which I want to have. It may not be the English manor house, maybe, but at least I have the morning-room, and it fuels my ongoing passions and dreams.

And maybe, who knows? the morning-room will turn out to be enough. Although…


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