KITCHEN ARMCHAIR TRAVELER : What Gives Writers Inspiration

| January 17, 2011 | Comments (2)

Sitting at My Window

Writers gain inspiration for their writing in many ways; a lot of mine comes from gazing out my kitchen window.

I live in an old row house, one of the surviving Victorian “grandes dames” in a sea of “projects”, those monolithic blocks of apartments that dominate the landscape in our working-class neighborhood.

I spend much of the day in my kitchen, a huge, airy, old-fashioned space that looks out onto my little garden, an city backyard that measures 40 by 20 feet, more or less. My favorite perch is an old wicker chair squeezed into the corner by the window. Mornings and afternoons I am usually at my “station”, notebook on my lap, a cup of coffee nearby; more than likely my old tiger cat, Putri, has joined me sprawled out on the back of the chair. Sometimes she digs her claws into my neck jolting me out of my reverie as I gaze through the barred window onto my little urban jungle.

This year I have opted for a “wild” look in my garden. Aided by ancient peach trees that hang over from the neighbor’s yard, I have allowed the ivy on my walls to grow without trimming it. Morning glories have taken control where they don’t belong. An old grape vine is running rampant. The only semblance of order is a moss-covered, herringbone-patterned brick walk that marches up to my trellis that shelters a riot of elephant ear plants. My other cat, Raja, a beloved Tuxedo, is buried there under the trellis.

Less mobile these days than I was before I entered my 70s, I have thrown to the wind any shame I may have had about just sitting and dreaming as I look out my window. And my imagination does take flight. Above the garden I see the backs of the neighbors’ glaring white pre-fab houses. They reach up to a bright, blue sky and I suddenly find myself in the sun-drenched Greek Islands. Hanging over my other wall is a beautiful rose bush. The flowers give out an intoxicating perfume. I crane my neck and plan my next “rose poach.” When the sun goes down I will sneak out and snip off one or two buds and my nice neighbor will be none the wiser! Well, they ARE hanging on my side of the wall !

Not only does my window give me sights. It also bring me sounds and smells. Sunday mornings are the best time. The African-American church down the block is alive with gospel song; further away, Saint Jerome’s ancient bells peal beautifully and the mournful whistle and clickety clack of a northbound train tell me people are on the move. Putri and I both salivate when the perfume of frijoles and chicken come through our window from Maria’s kitchen next door. It also attracts a variety of wildlife from feral cats to squirrels. My favorite sightings are the birds. The other day there was a red-breasted robin, a cardinal and two little humming birds hovering over my impatiens flowers.

The aging screen on my window has developed little holes which I have covered with bits of Scotch tape. I know some day in the not-too-distant future, I will have to have the whole screen replaced. In the meantime I gaze out my patchwork window thinking of the blanket of white that will cover it all before long.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Liz says:

    I remember the perfumed roses and warm kitchen and I believe that year too was the year of a wild garden. Reading about your garden and birds just took me back to “The nightingale and the rose.” I wonder what kind magical stories happen in your garden.

    • Sam says:

      Thanks, Liz, for your evocative comment. Right now nothing magical in the garden….only mountains of snow which I hope will melt gently and not inundate us!

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