In New England, we visited The Old Manse, the house that Ralph Waldo Emerson gifted to the newly wedded Hawthorne family. We got to walk into the study where both Emerson and Hawthorne wrote. Pictured above is their writing space when they lived there.
Emerson wrote his groundbreaking essay, Nature, in the green desk as he looked out the window. Hawthorne wrote a collection of short stories, Mosses of an Old Manse, as he looked into the burning embers of the fire. In the same room, they found different spaces to create. Spaces that reflected how they wrote.
Emerson's gaze was on his subject: nature. He looked out at the landscape where his ancestors began the revolutionary war. With pen in hand, he wrote the words that inspired the transcendental movement, which forever shaped American ideology.
But Hawthorne hunkered from the light and wrote his twisted tales. Here he grappled with the sins of his ancestors: the puritans, a judge in the Salem Witch trials. In his work, you can feel his smoldering past seep through the words he wrote.
A writer needs a space not only to work but a space to reflect the writer's motivation. And in this time of upheaval, I have found it particularly difficult to find that space. But since moving home after my university closed its doors, I was able to return back to my desk.
Though it isn't the tidiest of spaces (which will lead you to accurate conclusions about my writing), it has everything I need.
It has my favorite books to cheer me on as I attempt to create something on par with their own genius.
There is a Polaroid of my professor (the author of numerous books on my shelf) reading over a short story of mine.
In the back, you can see Frog and Toad - the characters of the first chapter book I ever read. And for a dyslexic kid, that was a huge milestone.
My fish tank sits on top where you can see my one-year-old goldfish named Gatsby swim. (All my fish are named after literary characters which I'll let you decide if that's pretentious or dorky).
I've got my poster from The Art Institute of Chicago, one of my favorite places in the world, alongside a number of postcards I've collected from other museums. I have a broken guitar piece, a note from a friend, and fractured dog figurine.
I hold on to all these things because if I, and the rest of the world, is to keep moving forward we have to hold onto the things that reinforce who we are. Whether that's looking out a window, getting lost in the fire, or drowning ourselves in nostalgic knick-knacks, it is instrumental for our creative endeavors, and for our wellbeing to establish a space that reminds us of who we are, where we've been, and what we will accomplish.
And this is why I have a picture of Walden Pond that I bought in New England on top of my desk. This is where Thoreau wrote Walden, a book that wove Emerson's transcendental theology deeper into American culture. This picture was taken after Thoreau's death. Instead of a monument people came to the site of his cabin and piled rocks on his front porch. Rocks from around the world lay at the doorstep of Thoreau's house to this day.
But Walden Pond is more to me than the hallowed stomping ground of Thoreau. It was in this town that I lost a dear friend. Andrew Prezioso took his life in Concord Massachusetts, and I looked for him at Walden Pond. When we told the staff that one of our friends was missing, they ushered me to a small shack with medical supplies on the shore of the pond. They sat me down, turned on a microphone and told me, if he's out there he will hear you over our sound system.
With tears in my eyes I told him, we love you, and we want you to come back. Those words danced with the waves of Walden Pond. The Walden Pond photographed on my desk. The Walden Pond that inspires the world. Andrew was not of this world as I begged him to come home, but I know he heard my words.
So the picture stays on my desk to remind me that my words matter. And now I write, and will continue to write, as Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Prezioso cheer me on.