I write in a place some might refer to as a “man cave.” I prefer to call it my study. Many labels and tags of today, like man cave, seem crass and fleeting. I seek the world–at least in words–of greater tested substance. But should a person happen in here, he or she would likely think, or speak, “man cave.” Here are rough-hewed beams. I don’t know how old this building is in the Old Port area of Portland, but I suspect the beams were put here by hand for real reasons, and not a later aesthetic to appeal to those sensitive to such things. Strewn about my study is my rock collection: small stones picked up from world travels and labeled accordingly: Stonehenge, Loch Ness, the Great Wall, Hemingway’s garden in Key West, Rio Grande in Terra del Fuego and so forth. On the old chimney brick I have stretched prayer flags from Tibet. My photographs are strewn about, some in plastic sleeves, some matted and framed. A few pieces of photographic equipment, as well as developer chemicals rest against walls and in dark cabinets. Overflow books reside here, mainly books on fly-fishing, map and compass navigation, literary criticism and guide books to hiking trails in New England.
My study is five floors up from street level. Stair only. No elevator. Maggie joined me every day and would sleep soundly while I wrote. Upon entering the building, I would let her off lease and she would bound up the stairs, pausing at each landing waiting for me to catch up, then I would give her a nod or the go ahead and she would fly the next staircase. I always kept treats for her in the study and she was anxious to get to them. Now I am alone here, sadly, broken hearted.
Not but two nights ago, I was writing and after several hours, lost in my words and the glow of my computer, I looked up and saw snow falling thick and seriously from the window by my desk. The facade to Bull Fineey’s Pub was blanketed and on the corner I could discern a man looking skyward into the snow. The approaching storm had escaped me entirely, so intent was I on the words I was trying to correctly place in order and time.
My study is large enough to sleep in and there is a stand-up shower and toilet. I use the shower occasionally to dry film in, the steam a good dust inhibitor. But I have not processed film in a while and the shower is dry. It also was the place where, in the heat of the summer, Maggie found refuge, the shower being the coolest spot in the study.
I come here every afternoon to crank out my quota of words and sometimes when they do not come easily, I pace the small room and stare out at the Fore River and watch the boats come and go. It is idyllic for a writer, this place. And I do not take it for granted. Just like I did not take Maggie for granted–but that makes her being gone no less starkly painful. If we define ourselves by the places we inhabit, this is my place. It is remote. No one wants to walk up five flights to bother me. And it affords me a view of my town, Portland. It is simple and around me are objects of my life in which I find comfort, including the photograph of Maggie on the wall. Everyday I come here and sit down and after a few minutes, or some chores of my life completed, I set out on my course of discovery. It happens here–and in my mind. That is all a person might be lucky enough to need. I am lucky.