Sunday, January 11, 2009

Reflections on Space and My Dollhouse

Before I graduated high school, I had already redecorated my room several times. At 15, I could no longer stand the hippie aesthetic of the painted "peace" coffee sack and teal green walls. I decided I wanted my room to be a dark moody blue, the exact color of a patch of rain clouds I had seen creeping up that summer on a baseball stadium. I felt that if my soul were a color, it had to be this one. My mom was wary of so much dark blue so we compromised on two white walls and two blue walls. I had also planned to paint a large quote above one of my windows (blue on white) with my favorite quote, by Socrates: "There are but two tragedies in life: one is not to get your heart's desire, the other is to get it." I was a rather introverted teenager and spent much time writing poetry. To me, this room was a sanctuary for music and written words.

Psychologist E. Prelinger said that "as a person's self-image changes, he or she is able to put away or dispose of objects that no longer reflect who they are, and acquire or make others." For four years in college, I lived in a condo my parents had bought in Austin. About a year into my life there, the bedroom walls became silver metallic.

I put a string of white lights up around the ceiling and lanterns hung above the head of the bed. A single chest of drawers of pale, smooth birch wood nestled in the corner and a soft ivory shag rug lay at the entrance to the room and matched the soft ivory blanket on the bed.

It was like sleeping in a soft, ethereal, metal jewel-box. As I got older, the celestial blue and silver no longer seemed to reflect who I was. After a tumultuous season of unrequited love, I painted the pale living room walls a passionate deep red. The kitchen walls adjoining it became a bright happy marigold. The change was exactly what I needed, but eventually I had to leave.

Over the next few years, I continued to tire of the pale and artificial. My love of birch gave way to naturally imperfect and dark brown woods. My curtains were pink raw silk, blanket pumpkin-colored, tables the color of dark tobacco stain. The last bedroom I painted was the color of dark chocolate, with dark brown pillows to contrast against that first ivory blanket.

Every year, I moved somewhere new and redefined myself in the space surrounding me. One year I was bright and fun. The next year, dark and sophisticated. Finally, I moved to California and found a place that was most everything I wanted to be: beautiful in its simplicity, open yet unassuming.

A place so small that there was no room for extravagance, where everything inside had no choice but to be both efficient and an aesthetic focal point.

My little doll house was only about 250 square feet counting the loft where my bed and clothes lived. While a lot of terrible things happened in my life during the 7 months I lived in that house, and though I had many problems with its builder and landlord, the house itself remained a source of peace for me. I was sick 5 times and had 2 deaths in my family. But this little house drew wonderful things to me. Tyson has told me that half the reason he came back to Santa Cruz to see me after completely freaking out after our first date (when he realized that we would inevitably be in a relationship) was the little house I was living in. When I had strep throat 4 times in two months, two little kittens adopted me and my house and would come visit me almost every day, happy to find a more comforting place than the house they lived in with young screaming children a few yards over. When it was rainy, Tyson and I would make a little nest for them in the bathroom.

For ten years, personal space and physical location have been a huge part of my life, significantly impacting my headspace and relationships. I can not write a poem without including many details about a space in which an event occurred.

It says so much about what’s going on. The character of a space can affect what happens within it. It also bears witness to the mindset and desires of its owner. Soon I will be living in a tiny house with a man who I love. We are working on this house together.


Maureen Young said...

I love this. It made my heart smile.

Clifford said...

hey amanda this is great it has inspired me!

Mia said...

Good for you girl! I LOVE that little house! A place for everything and everything in its place.

Ann said...

isn't it funny how the animals knew you needed cheering up ... i like you bent clothes rod ... i have to start thinking more outside the box in planning my little home!