Boggy Memory: Filling the Gaps in the Path to Peace

I have holed up in Blanche today here in central Alabama. It has been a cold, dreary day and weekend fun seekers have been trickling in all day, filling this little park over half full with travel trailers, tents, flag-decorated trucks, and bouncy houses. This area certainly has a different feel on weekends compared to other parks I have visited. The activity could be due to the waning winter although it is supposed to get to near freezing temps at night in the coming week. I am thankful for my private, warm little home.

Sitting in wetlands at the base of rolling hills, it is beautiful, boggy, and buggy, and everything is damp. I’ve been spoiled, these last many winter weeks, to dry climates. Even Northern Louisiana with its bayous and lakes and cypresses had day after day of low humidity. Here, my floor constantly feels damp and any cooking-generated heat fogs my windows. It is reminiscent of the beach house in some respects. My pillows and sheets feel damp at all times and even when Blanche is warm, I struggle to get the chill out of my bones.

Recalling Surfside’s spring fog has sent me into a bit of an emotional tailspin. Memory can be exhausting.

The current state of the world is exhausting. I have nothing to offer but words that have no value and unrelated trauma that serves no purpose.

So, I will spin here in my own little world.

I think often about what Blanche means to me and why I can’t imagine living in a typical house again. I can imagine living in a tiny home, a truly tiny one. That is, I can see living in one the size of Blanche. I’ve seen some “tiny” homes that have a large master bedroom or storage space hanging off of it like a husband’s concession to a wife longing for her shoe closet or a wife allowing for an overstocked garage.

Not for me! I would want the equivalent of Blanche on the ground with all the amenities: water, electricity, internet, and septic. Tools would, at best, reside in a small shed the size of Betty’s cargo space.

I would have one addition, a tiny mud room up front. I do so hate the dirt Sam and I drag in.

In other words, I want no more belongings than I own now, no more material shackles or commitments.

I was considering all of this (as if any of it matters and as if I will even live to see that day) and in the humid bubble of Alabama Blanche, I recalled the different home decor paths my ex and I took after the divorce.

Neither path is better than the other; they are simply different. He and I had different aesthetics but we were fairly good at compromising when it came to home furnishings. Unfortunately, compromise typically meant colliding visions. Still, we managed.

The changes we both undertook after the divorce were, I believe:

1. a reflection of our different tastes/desires in a home,

2. the need to express that difference outwardly (he/she can’t tell me what to buy now, so I can get what I damn well please!), and

3. a need on both our parts to sculpt our homes into a space in which we felt less alone and less ensconced in memory.

I think the first two are fairly obvious but I’ll present a couple of simple examples. Again, these are just personal preference. I wanted a “beachy” beach house with bright, lightweight, weathered furniture. He wanted “functional and comfortable.” We compromised. Which meant neither of us really got what we wanted.

When I left, I took only my grandmother’s hutch and some little stuff with me because I was moving into a furnished rental. Little of what we bought was what I’d truly wanted, anyway.

In time, he refurnished a great deal of the den with massive, dark theater seating that visually fills the room. He purchased a few other pieces and while the house is by no means crowded, it is—full. It makes him happy and comfortable; that’s all that matters.

I, in my rental, was never happy with the furniture. It came with dark leatherette futons that were too big for the 630 sq ft space, a beachy distressed wood table, and little else besides beds. I bought a few small items trying to make it mine, but it never felt right.

Now, of course, I have Blanche. She is her furniture. There are no tables or chairs or shelves to buy or add. At most I could possibly add a small knickknack shelf in the corner of the bed area but—why? I’d just kick it in my sleep or Sam would hit it when he gets up in he middle of the night. Everything has to go into cabinets for travel and there is no sense in “hanging pictures” or decorations of any kind on Blanche’s minimalist walls. That would just make her look smaller.

However, it is the very act of being here in this tiny space that is the equivalent of my ex’s decorating changes. While he decorated with what he wanted in contradiction to what I would have agreed to, surely, I have chosen to live entirely as I wish to in contradiction to what he would have agreed to.

Put another way:

– He chose his aesthetic (function over form),

– he did so consciously or subconsciously in defiance of my preferences (because he can!), and

– he did so in a way that fills the emotional space and eliminates pieces of our past and memories that were in all likelihood problematic.

Likewise:

– I chose my aesthetic (minimalism),

– I did so absolutely consciously in defiance of his preferences (because I can!), and

– I did so in a way that reduces my space to one so small that I do not have room for the pieces of him (or any other man) that were definitely problematic.

We both seemed to have sought to reduce an ill-defined emptiness, but we took entirely different paths to do so. Is he aware he did so? Who knows. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. I just found it fascinating to consider that while we are both different people, as humans we dealt with a facet of divorce/solitude in different but parallel ways. I would posit that some of this may be explained by age, both the similarities and the differences, but that is another post.

Meanwhile, my neighbors in the park tonight have had a few beers and are as loud and vocal as any group that might have been enjoying themselves in a large beach rental on a Friday night. It’s just another small part of the evening taking me back to last year.

It’s hard not to wallow some in things I miss: actual faces and voices I knew, places I could walk or drive to at any hour without discomfort, companions I could call on occasion when the lonelies got a bit too tough.

Still, in the belly of this little fiberglass bubble on wheels, I remain at peace with my choice of home and “decor.” In Blanche’s limited square footage, there is scant room to be overwhelmed by sentimental tchotchkes or spatial and cognitive emptiness.

5 thoughts on “Boggy Memory: Filling the Gaps in the Path to Peace

  1. Peter Heiss

    A lot to process here! But all important stuff and obviously well-thought-out.
    😉
    And—extra points for using “ tchotchkes” in a sentence!

    Reply
  2. Anne-Sophie

    I love your writing!

    It is so perfect literature blended with the sharpness of a scientific mind.

    The first paragraph is lyrical, the second more descriptive.

    From recalling to world, it becomes Proust like, making us think of our own madeleine, which we all have.

    The next paragraph is an apt description of those not so tiny homes’ shows.

    Then what home means to one.

    And the wonderful point by point outline of a social study about attitudes toward personal space.

    From meanwhile to tchotchkes another Remembrance of Things Past reference, masterfully and artfully descriptive of our relationship to space.
    .
    Not the 10 minutes, no gravity space, that “needs” fuel inefficient bananas that do the same job as the 1960’s planes.

    The space for dwelling. (first time I have written such a tiny phrase)

    Thank you for being lyrical about Blanche, a lovely cocoon indeed from which your phrases and pictures fly like million of butterflies.

    Reply

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