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In Search of Quiet Spaces

I’m back in the city for a few days in search of quiet spaces—both internal and external—to think, read, and write. Usually, the atelier in my apartment is very quiet. It’s a room at the back, off the street. The doves coo on the roof and there is mechanical ambient sound, but it falls into the background as I work. Today, the air has cooled and the screened window is wide open to the surrounding brick walls. There isn’t much light but I don’t need light at the computer. I’ll find that later when I take a break and go swimming in a glass enclosed pool. Yet later, I’ll take another break from a revision I’m starting to meet a friend for a coffee. Alas, some of the quietude I rely on here has been broken and the quiet space is not quiet this week. We had a bad fire in our building.

It happened at 4 a.m. last Monday morning. When we arrived from upstate later that afternoon, the fire was over but there was still a lot of activity—police, restoration crews, fire trucks. About fifteen apartments were effected—not ours thankfully—the whole roof destroyed as well as two apartments in the adjacent building. Fortunately, no one was hurt though several families have lost their homes. Most of the damage was water damage. In the aftermath, the building is busy with insurer adjusters and crews and machines drying out the walls. So, yesterday morning, I escaped across town to a writer’s room I used to belong to and thought I’d rejoin for a few months until the building is back in shape. It was a difficult trip to the other side of town in sheeting rain. The building, an old library, had been closed for renovation over the summer. Now it was reopened but still busy with workers. None of this was mentioned on their website. I regretted not calling ahead but I was desperate to find a quiet space to work. I hadn’t done a stick of work all morning and was feeling mighty frustrated.

In the end, it was my own mood that did me in. Obstacles in every direction, I hated the city in that moment. I had to calm down. I returned home, ate some lunch, and watched a recorded Antiques Roadshow with my husband for an hour. Then I returned to my desk.


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