Room to Breathe

There is no room in the fridge.

It’s a small domestic detail which, frankly, does not belong in a post: but I have spent some considerable time this evening attempting to push a very big chicken’s bottom into a very small space in said fridge, and I have failed.

“I can’t get the chicken in the fridge,” I told Phil grumpily.

“That’s ok,” my husband volunteered, cheerily. “It’s perfectly cold enough outside.Put it on the garden table.”

We both knew there was a fundamental flaw in that plan, and his name was Foxy. I cannot believe that this gorgeous brush-tail would pass up a chance to drag a ready-culled chicken off into the forest for a little night feasting. The cellophane would be a mere hors d’oeuvre.

Phil thought hard for a moment. His face brightened. Phil is an ideas man: but his ideas are often eccentric.

“I know!” he exclaimed. “We’ll put it outside on the table, but we’ll get the big mixing bowl and put it over the top!”

I refrained from pointing out that foxes have noses; and that short of nailing the bowl down around the chicken, there was little one could do to keep Foxy from feasting tonight.

So as I type, the chicken sits outside on the table. I might as well put out a napkin and some barbecue sauce.

The chicken is not the only one out-of-place tonight: I, too, have been crowded out of my favourite haunt.

In the evenings the two children, the dog, the cat and Phil and I shut down the ground floor and gravitate to our bedroom on the middle floor to watch television, and play, and write, and file in and out of the bathroom one by one.

The two huge windows look straight out on the forest. In Summer they are wide open so it feels as if we are part of all the foliage. In Winter, we watch the frosty moon rise over black filigree twigs and branches.

Macaulay sleeps in the corner, we lounge on the sofa or the huge bed, and time passes by in sweet serendipity. It has become increasingly shabby, being, effectively, the family’s favourite living room.

Phil has blown the whistle and called time. The room must be redecorated, albeit simply.

And so this afternoon, after the traditional Saturday nap, I was ordered out of my Centre of Operations, trailing my laptop and cord disconsolately. And while I know this must be done- rather like a child with a pungent comfort blanket – the loss of this most central of rooms, even for a short time, smarts.

As I type, I am tucked up ready to sleep on the sofa in the sitting room, and Phil on the floor. The dog cannot believe his good luck. Hello, he emanates, here you are on the sitting room floor. How novel. You’re both much lower than usual: almost on my level, indeed. Excellent, he huffs happily, exuding essence of barnyard.

He has curled up in his small plastic tub-basket, sublimely happy, as if, to him, this is a little holiday.

Sleep well, Macaulay, for a change is as good as a rest.

Changes are afoot at Big Al’s place, too: the quest for space in a busy family household never quite ceases. Big Al’s Dad has been eyeing up the shed.

He has cleared the area around the present little wooden shack and speculates whether something a little more spacious would provide a little grown up bolthole.

A summerhouse at the bottom of the garden: now there would be a place to retreat to, when Al’s on an investigative rampage. A detached wood-plank sanctuary from the world.

There is a word: Poustinia. It is a Russian concept, a wooden shack where one may go for spiritual contemplation. It refers to a short period of silent retreat; an emptying of oneself in order to listen to the music of the spheres.

Everyone needs their place, a place of sanctuary, a place to recharge and be the most honest self one can be. A writing room, a shed, a bedroom: it is a place as still as the eye of the storm, without the threat of tempests returning.

It is one step further to finding that stillest of places inside us: the eye of the tempestuous world.

The chicken may or may not make it through the night; that issue is in the jaws of our four-pawed tenant. But Macaulay and I will be back in our favourite room tomorrow evening, grounded ready to face another week. And I’d like to think that before long, Al’s Mum and Dad will have Β a port in the storm, there at the bottom of the garden, where the tempest cannot touch them.

A poustinia. A port in the storm.

Picture source: Mar J Clay Peters, The Old Garden Shed: from Saatchi Online here


55 thoughts on “Room to Breathe

  1. Lovely word Poustinia – one of my son’s has just had a studio built at the bottom of their garden – double glazing, lighting, heating they all love it – the whole family use it to do their art work. Hope the chicken survives, my mother-in-law used to have a little netted meat safe that she hung in the trees, I wonder if such things still exist?

    1. The chicken survived. Oh me of little faith. Foxy is obviously a well fed soul. Perhaps he preferred pizza from the bins down the street. Your son’s studio sounds brilliant!

  2. I hate the disruption of decorating! I hope it doesn’t last too long.

    As the children grew I found favourite places changed… and now they rarely choose to be with us in the evenings. In our house the parental bedroom has never been as you describe yours: no TV, for a start! The kitchen has always been the main meeting ground.

    1. Kitchens are great places to talk, with a steaming mug of coffee in hand. I expect this phase will pass, and the children will want to maintain their own space. When that happens we have a poustinia master plan. We shall put the children’s bedrooms on the middle floor and gravitate upwards, taking over the top floor with all its skylights, one room (complete with television, such children of the seventies) for our bedroom, one for study research and writing. Oh,it will be grand.

  3. Like you, the bedroom is my center. I even drag work to it when I get stuck and can divine no solution. We have to paint our bedroom, and I am trying to plan it to be done in one day. πŸ˜‰

    Poustinia is the word I am now going to use for our shack in the mountains, if we ever have a shack in the mountains.

    I hope the chicken made it through the night.

    1. The chicken survived, hurrah! It’s roasting in the oven as I type, with no foxy-tooth-marks to show for its overnight ordeal. As I commented to Rosemary: oh, me of little faith…

      I love your poustinia. May it materialise soon so you have many years to enjoy it.

  4. Poustinia. A lovely word, indeed. My poustinia would be this lovely library/den/office where Antler Man built floor to ceiling bookshelves for all my books and things. I’ve two windows to look out of on either side of the desk. There the chickadees and chipmunks keep me entertained. It is also a mad mess right now with paperwork and things, reminding me that a little order is needed.

    I hope your chicken is still there come morning, Kate. I know how that goes. . . just cleaned out our fridge the other day and am busy filling it up again. It is amazing how much two people can eat.

    1. I think there’s a fridge conspiracy out there, Penny. They are designed to move things around when we’re not looking.

      Your poustinia sounds just lovely, messy or no. Happiness lives in rooms like that.

  5. Must have been a well-fed fox to ignore the temptation of chicken, albeit frozen! Or, wait, maybe that’s why. You should have defrosted it, Kate, lol!

  6. I’m lucky, I guess my whole house is a poustinia now since, for most of the year, I have it to myself. But I still have a special room for me with my books and my computer with sunlight and all my papers where I leave them (no need to clear the table for meals etc). I was seriously disturbed over the Christmas week when my desk was cleared to house a very large jigsaw… but it was ‘only’ for a week.

    1. Glad the jigsaw has departed, and that beautiful sunlit room is back to normal. Such change flusters me more than it really ought: we are all creatures of habit, aren’t we, EB, when all is said and done?

  7. It’s amazing that we all need to find that special time or place that soothes our soul and replenishes us for the day ahead. It is also true that when that place is absent from our lives, even for a short time, we miss it, sometimes desperately.

    The Lovely Miss TK and I share the family room space as our hangout and since we have different senses of time, I generally have a couple of hours every morning totally to myself, the laptop, coffee and iThingy…glorious alone (sorta) time. This is true not only on weekend, but, also during the work week since I am a very early riser and she is destined to become the goddess of the sheets and rises from them only when required.

    We also have what is called a FROG in our little corner of the world…I had no idea what it was when we read the real estate printouts before visiting the area for house hunting. I thought it was something to do with a Fireplace Reclining Outside Garden, or some such nonsense. Turns out it is a Finished Room Over Garage, a bonus room that can serve as poustinia for us. Either of us can retreat there as necessary, no TV, but a treadmill and desk that serves its purpose well.

    I’ll be interested in following the adventures of Big Al once his Dad finishes his poustinia, a boy alone in his own haven will bear watching…many funny stories are sure to result.

    1. Ah, so you have a temporal poustinia as well as a real one, Lou! The early hours of the morning are precious indeed – before the world has woken, when the mind is generally crystal clear and refreshed after sleep. FROGs sound a brilliant idea. Indeed, my mind ticketh over thinking about the possibilities on this side of the pond.

      I think Al will require one adult with him for many years to come. The consequences of shutting the door and running away set our Shrewsday hearts a-tremble. Maybe your shift-pattern-temporal poustinia idea might come in handy for Al, his mother and his father…

  8. We do indeed all need our little haven. Lovely word Kate. When I get my shed finally cleared I’ll no longer call it my studio.

    Poustinia it will be.

    (Don’t hold your breath, it isn’t high on my priorities this weekend……)

  9. In this concrete megatechnopolis in which we live there are few refuges. Demands and responsibilities already own all the real estate. We must find a way to carve out a niche despite it all.

  10. It’s not even the bedroom; it’s the bed which is my place of safety. Ideally with a hot water bottle. The day I got trapped in the lift at work, I couldn’t even begin to settle until I got home and went to bed. I didn’t sleep; I just needed to be in bed, safe and warm and cocooned.

  11. I completely understand about trailing about the house with the laptop and the cord trailing behind. I am also familiar with no room in the fridge, something I had better deal with soon, but maybe not quite yet! c

    1. Fridges can wait until they are groaning with the weight of leftovers before they are tackled, Cecilia πŸ™‚

      Just loved your blog: such a fabulously entertaining read. Can’t believe I have not come across it before! Anyone who names a farm animal Hairy McLairy is top-drawer in my book…

  12. Lovely portraits!

    I must admit the port I am rather partial to in storms comes from a bottle …

    I am on tenterhooks to discover whether Mr Reynard discovered the arrival of a vulpine Father Christmas.

    In SA, all you need to get room in your fridge is to add lots of cream to it. (‘Room’ is ‘cream’ in Afrikaans!)

  13. I have recently identified a craving – for just such a space. All I have now is a corner of the kitchen–mine, yes, but cramped and amidst the chaos.


    I have a beady eye on the spare room, with that nummy word rolling around in my brain.

  14. Kate, the view from your window sounds magical! I hope your decorating is completed in very quick time, and you can get back to your special place! I also hope you enjoyed the chicken! πŸ˜€

  15. Oh, blessed downtime…to do whatever rejuvenates and restores. My home is my poustinia. This is not a good thing, however Kate, because it has come from living on my own for too long. I have a terrible time tuning others out. I hear every sound because I’m so geared to being “alert”. If there’s a maintenance need, no one else is going to save the day. When a friend wanders into the kitchen to help themselves to something, I am delighted they feel that comfortable, but I’m compelled to make sure they have everything they need. So I have to work hard to give them their space within the poustinia so they can breathe!

    I marvel at how you seemingly roll with the punches and just drag your computer to where ever for however long. C’est la vie.

  16. I’m glad to meet other people who don’t think refrigeration is the only possible salvation, although in our house it’s usually oversized cartons of milk. Hope your dinner makes it through the night without Foxy’s attention and that you enjoy your newly redecorated sanctuary. You make the prosaic everyday come alive. πŸ™‚

  17. The chicken tale reminds me of the time, long ago, when I shared a house with some total vegetarians……even their pets were made to eat only veggie approved foods, untill one day the cat came home proudly dragging a frozen oven-ready chicken behind him! They never did discover where he’d pilfered it from, but did take the hint that puddycat was NOT a happy camper!
    My favourite room now I have moved and finally got unpacked I think is my new office, very peaceful, away from the madness that is BabyMibs, and has a lovely view of NOTHING, no houses, no roads, just a rolling vista of fields, hills and the mountains fringing the edge!

    1. Cats are SO good at signalling their intentions, aren’t they, Mibs? So glad the move seems to have gone well. You office view: well, what can I say? It sounds idyllic! All the best in your new house. You and baby Mibs deserve a really great year.

  18. I’m glad to read that I’m not the only one who may have many nooks, but it is the laptop, in the bedroom with a cup of tea…that is where the muse whispers, long after the moon has tucked under the eaves. Your Phil cracks me up…so fun ~

  19. What a lovely prospect, to open the windows and feel part of the foliage. I’ve always wanted a summerhouse, but here, without a garden, there’s no prospect of one. But the bedroom suffices.

    PS I’ve never known, heard of, or read about a man who wanted to redecorate anything. Phil must be one of a kind.

  20. It makes me smile to picture you all there in your favorite room, each absorbed in his or her activity. Here, Jack and I divided the space between us. He got the spare bedroom for his man couch, big TV, and video games (he’s noisy, I’m quiet). I got the loft above the garage with its little dormer windows and crazy sloped ceilings.

    1. It sounds like your poustinia is rather lovely, Elizabeth: and do I seem to remember it has a wonderful view? It will come in handy as you put together chapters for that novel…

  21. Did the chicken make it through the night? I’m so curious! We are creatures of habit, I suppose. Why do we gravitate to one space over another–you describe a lovely nest, though, Kate. I hope the improvements just make you all even more cosy! Debra

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