Building a bliss station
I need a bliss station. The place where I can retreat from the world and do what I really want to do – read, write, draw, cut some pictures and make as much mess I want without having to clean it.
Follow your bliss, says Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth. If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
Discerning one’s bliss, Campbell argues, requires what he calls “sacred space” — a space for uninterrupted reflection and unrushed creative work. He recommends that everybody should build a “bliss station” into which to root oneself:
You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth
Yesterday, sitting in the front porch, reading Anne Dillard’s The Writing Life once again in the perfect winter sun, I came across a paragraph which I had underlined in my previous read:
I write this in the most recent of my many studies – a pine shed on Cape Cod. The pine lumber is unfinished inside the study; the pines outside are finished trees. I see the pines from my two windows. Nuthatches spiral around their long, coarse trunks. Sometimes in June a feeding colony of mixed warbles flies through the pines; the warblers make a racket that draws me out the door. The warblers drift loosely through the stiff pine branches, and I follow through the thin long grass between the trunks.Annie Dillard in The Writing Life
I stop. I close my eyes and transport myself to Annie’s pine shed. I see a desk against the window looking out at the pine forest. I want that, I tell myself. I want a study of my own and a desk against the window. I get up and review all the rooms. Which one has the potential to be my bliss station?
Now that kids have left home I have four bedrooms to choose from. One of them is already a study, equipped with a table, a printer, and numerous filing cabinets. My husband lays claim on it, although he rarely uses it. I leave it alone. Both children’s bedrooms are overflowing with stuff they have left behind. Their storage area. Their claim on the rooms they will never come back to but will never let go of either. “Leave our rooms as they are,” they have instructed me. I move to the fourth room.
The fourth bedroom is the best of the lot. It has an ensuite which makes it a perfect guestroom. But it also has the best view of a row of pine trees almost touching the sky. In winter, the sun comes in through the window. This is it. I want to take out the spare bed and replace it with a big table.
I come back to the book, while my mind is still making plans – how can I get rid of almost new bed we bought a couple of years ago, where can I source a table from, how to get my husband to agree. I start reading the book and on the very next page Annie writes:
Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark. When I furnished this study seven years ago, I pushed the desk against a blank wall, so I could not see from either window.Annie Dillard in The Writing Life
There it goes. All the excitement of having a perfect study. I still can do it but I know we need the room for guests, who come frequently and need the ensuite. “You can read in the space of a coffin, and you can write in the space of a tool shed meant for mowers and spades,” writes Annie. I go to the darkest room in the house, one with the least amount of distractions.
I push back my husband’s massive Apple computer to one side to make room for my laptop. I plonk a corkboard against the wall with my cuttings. I leave the ironing table unfolded to permanently obstruct the view from the window. Inch by inch I occupy the real estate in the filing cabinets. My “bliss station” is ready. It is cold and miserable here. I have installed a small heater to warm my feet. Next winter I might invest in UGG boots. This winter heater will have to do.