Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Private land of enchantment can be only 13 steps away

Simply Living

(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel May 11, 2008)

I've been spending time every day in an exotic location, but I don't have to travel to get there.

The place I escape to is in the second story of our house. It's only 13 steps up from the main floor, but as I climb the stairs, it's as if I enter another continent.

The room is interspersed with bamboo accents. It's a sunny space with sloping ceilings and a dormer window. The walls are painted in soft earth tones. The ceiling is blue, the color of sky. Bright and clean and sparsely furnished, it's a quiet room that invites introspection.

When I open the door and step within, I'm struck by serenity soft as a feather. So many things in that room make me smile.

When Ralph and I built our house, we designed an attic that could one day be converted into living space. I've always had a special fondness for attic spaces. Slanting ceilings, short knee walls and dormer windows prompt recollections of my childhood bedroom on the second story of my parents' house in Yardley, Pa. It was a happy time, and I suppose it stayed with me. Youthful memories have a lock on our psyches. The bedroom of my youth became the mental prototype of my ideal room. I've always known that someday, as an adult, I'd create a space to embody the essence of that long-ago bedroom.

Dream merged with reality this past year, thanks to the carpentry efforts of our friend Robbie Taylor. Robbie skillfully transformed my vision into living space. But rather than replicate the past, I wanted the room to reflect the present. I wanted it filled with bamboo.

Robbie took smooth tan bamboo poles, split them in half lengthwise, then used them as baseboard, window trim and edging along the walls. Across from the bed -- a futon on the carpeted floor -- is an entire knee wall completely covered by thin reed fencing. Trimmed out with bamboo halves, the reed wall looks exotic, tropical and alluring. It's a visual invitation to relax, sit back, forget daily woes and concentrate on the moment.

I climb the steps to that room each day about noon. My anticipation of all things tranquil begins as soon as my hand touches the banister -- another bamboo cane -- that guides my passage. Once upstairs, the first thing I do is open the windows and enjoy the sounds. Birds high up in a giant oak sing from the branches. A melodious chorus, but who are the singers? I attempt to identify the bird songs as I lie back on the futon. Preparing to be lost -- lost in blue skies and clouds, birds and butterflies, bamboo canes bending in the breeze and oak leaves rustling.

Am I on the beach? In a cabin? Am I adrift on a boat? Wherever my mind wants to wander, the room is my journey. Ever ready to travel.

I had no idea I'd love it this much. I had no idea it would be so needed.

I live in a beautiful place. Our yard, the paths through the woods, the lake, our house -- it's all wonderful and amazing. It's an incredible place to be. But even here, in a paradise of our own creation, escape is essential. I'm busy with work. As a mother, a writer, a small-business owner, I wear many hats and often get boggled. The phone rings. I answer. An e-mail arrives. I respond. I chauffeur my son and shop for the groceries. Make meals. Clean up. Do laundry. Help customers. Discuss plans. Make decisions. Field questions and more questions.

Just a typical mom in this modern-day world.

Like all busy people, I need a time and a place to tune down mental chatter and turn up the dial on everyday magic.

First thing in the morning, that place is my rowboat -- a meditation to start the day. But by the time noon rolls around, my morning mellowness has faded. Like an aging battery in need of frequent recharges, I know it's time to find a charging station.

I find it upstairs. The room at the top of the stairs is the outlet that fills my drained self with energy.

I spend time every day in an exotic location. My husband joins me, and we drift off together.

Who says you have to travel to go places? Some journeys are best taken in the comfort of your own home.

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