The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

Posted in concert with this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge.

The subject for this week’s Lens Artist Challenge is “Alone Time.” Host, Ann-Christine, begins her piece, “Alone time means time spent by an individual or a couple apart from others.”

Some people choose nature to find their alone time. I do. Some take a drive. I’ve certainly done that; an 8,000 mile solo road trip through the Midwest should qualify. Mostly though, I find my alone time in my own home, in a small downstairs bedroom that currently serves as my office, but, for over more than two decades has served many purposes and the people who have called it, even if only briefly, their own space.

This office – I’ve made it my own space while keeping reminders of what it’s been over the years. I’ve decorated the room, or fouled it, depending on your point of view, with mementoes of my life and the lives of my family.

Ann-Christine writes, “It (your solitary place) is often used to ground oneself, or to do something creative.”
My office is where I work, where I write (where I’m writing this very piece), where I edit and where I think. Sometimes it’s where I listen to music or take a nap.

For over thirteen years, it was my son’s room. He moved in when he was five. It was the place where you went to scream in pain after stepping on a Lego blog. It wasn’t just his room. Phantom, our first Gordon Setter, slept with our son until Matt went to college. To this day I don’t know how that kid and that big dog managed to share a single bed. I mean, let’s face it, dogs normally sleep curled in a warm, compact ball. That is, until they get invited to the bed, in which case they manage to sprawl into what seems triple their size.

When Matt moved out it became a spare bedroom and went mostly unused. By and by, our friend Scott moved into the room and stayed while he was between jobs. That was only for a few months until he found a job in Medford, Oregon. Over the next few years he used the room as a home base every October when he came down to the Bay Area for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, in San Francisco.

It was my dearest friend Ivy’s (not her real name) room while she was going through a personal crisis. She called that room her home until the night she left to take her own life. Luckily, she was found by the Oakland police who spotted her car. She’d left us a short note which I’ve kept to this day. It’s a reminder.

Medford wasn’t kind to Scott. From what I know of Medford, the only good things about it are full service gas and the Harry and David’s gourmet food outlet. Scott moved back in to look for another job. After a while he moved on and the room became my grandson Jackson’s.

My daughter Jessica, Jackson and sister Luciana (Lucy), just moved out last summer. Broke my heart. Many of the things that Jackson left behind, a Steph Curry piggy bank, his soccer medals and a painting he did, still remain.

This is where my son did his homework, where Scott read voraciously, where Jackson did his homework and, I’m so proud to say, read Maus — because he wanted to. This is where I come to read.

Held in place by a petrified rock I got in a gift shop at the Painted Desert and Jackson’s old piggy bank, six special books sit on a shelf by themselves:
The Constitution of The United States
The copy of Maus that my grandson Jackson read.
My dad’s copy of Here Is Your War, by Ernie Pyle. My father was a veteran of WWII, and his favorite correspondent was Ernie Pyle.
Dad’s copy of The Pickwick Papers (1943).
Dad’s copy of This Is My Best (1943), an anthology of writers that includes, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Sandburg, James Thurber, William Carlos Williams, Robinson Jeffers and over 80 others.
A personalized autographed copy of Over Time by Frank Deford.

Growing up, and later, during my early adult years, Deford was my favorite sports writer. Every week I would wait for my copy of Sports Illustrated to arrive so I could read his column. There’s an importance to the date of the autograph. Cora and I went to see a talk by Mr. Deford at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. As he was speaking and later chatting and autographing copies of his book, a few miles away at the ballpark, Giants pitcher Matt Cain was throwing a perfect game. Driving home we listened to the innings go by as Cain mowed down every batter he faced. We got home just in time to see the final pitch.

How fitting was it that on the night that I met my favorite sportswriter, just a few miles away, the hometown pitcher was accomplishing what every pitcher dreams of but very, very few realize.


While my wife listens to the radio in the morning after she gets up, I take my breakfast here; to read, to relax and to find some quiet.

The coffee cup harkens back to the 1940’s or 1950’s. “How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

There is a collection of random stuff on the top shelf of my desk.

“Closed in a room, my imagination becomes the universe, and the rest of the world is missing out.”
― Criss Jami

The wall holds a few of my photographs along with a reminder of the days when I was a Civil War reenactor. A Sharps carbine hangs below a cavalry sabre and above a Union cavalry forage cap.

Sharps carbine and forage cap.

My room? Well, not just mine. Most of the time my dog Lexi stays with me, curled up on her dog bed. Sometimes, when I lounge on the futon she rests her nose on my chest while I read.

Being alone can be calming. Being alone with your dog just enhances the calm (even if your dog is a Gordon Setter).

My room? No, it can never be just mine. This is a room that speaks of everything its walls have seen, heard, smelled and felt. Well, not everything. I’m sure that the room has secrets best not made known.

We’re going to be selling the house soon. Move to a smaller place. I suppose that I’ll have my own room/office but it won’t be the same. You see, this room contains memories and stories. The new room can never replace this room. The new room has never known Matthew, or Phantom, or Lexi (or our other dogs, Rainey and Chloe), or Scott, or Ivy, or Jackson. I can decorate that new room it with all of the memorabilia I choose but it will just be decoration.

The new owner will probably spackle over the divots in the baseboards, dings that were made when my son and later, my grandsons crashed their diecast cars. He’ll paint over the gouge in the wall from the little basketball hoop Jackson hung on the door, and the scratches that Lexi’s nails made when she asked to come in or go out. All of the voices in this room will go silent the day we close the door behind us for good.

This room is also where I transform color photos into monochrome.

To see Ann-Christine’s take on Alone Time, visit her site, Leya. While you’re there, scroll through the comments to see how other’s find their Alone Time.

13 thoughts on “Monthly Monochrome: Alone Time

  1. Deb says:

    What a touching post Paul- to imagine from the outside the lives that have touched and left an impact on one small room. It was easy to see each person who spent time there as well as you now that you share it with Lexi of course. Of course the memories of all those people will travel with you but I can see an ache, even a bit of a hole where the room will remain behind. It has meant a lot to many people.

    1. Paul says:

      Hi Deb,
      I’m having trouble dealing with the idea of leaving the house. The home itself is family. Leaving is like leaving a family member behind.
      Thank you for reading and for your kind words.

  2. Some great books on your shelves there, Paul. Few people read, let alone keep Dickins’ “Hard Times.” Great memories of the room, too, if we allow that “great” can be good times and hard, happy times and sorrowful in turns.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Martin,
      I’ve read and have kept Dickens, Hard Times. Loved it. That said, the Hard Times in the photo was written by Studs Terkel. It’s an oral history of the Great Depression. As a journalist with a left leaning bent, I’ve no doubt that you’ll enjoy his left leaning works. His oral history on WWII, The Good War, won a Pulizter. I’ve listened to some of his source interviews on the internet. Highly recommended.

  3. JohnRH says:

    Great monochromes. I LOVE the dog portraits. This theme has led bloggers to be as introspective, or more, as photographic.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello John,
      I know you’re partial to the dog shots.
      “This theme has led bloggers to be as introspective, or more, as photographic.” Maybe every picture doesn’t tell a story. Maybe Rod Stewart had it wrong.
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  4. Leya says:

    “This theme has led bloggers to be as introspective, or more, as photographic.” I must start with those words, Paul, because I am glad if this were true. From what I have read so far, I might agree. And You are a great storyteller, as your words go straight to my heart and into my very bones. Your story is alive. And the room is alive with stories. I can feel the emptiness of leaving it, and it makes me think of my own room and its stories. I too have kept memories from those who lived in it before. A young boy had it at first, a boy I was in love with as a young girl. Then my daughter had it before me, and it feels comforting to have some of her things there. It means she is still there in a way. I cannot imagine leaving it, but someday I guess I will have to.

    You share room with sweet Lexi, that is good – I share mine with Milo. I love your photos of Lexi, her mild eyes and look is so calm and kind. It’s good to be alone together with your dog. I know you can save your memories in a good way – even if they will never be the same in your new room. Thank you so much for joining in – Best wishes, Ann-Christine

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Ann-Christine,
      “This theme has led bloggers to be as introspective, or more, as photographic.” John’s words and so very true and so you should be glad. The stories behind the photos add an extra dimension.
      It will be very difficult to leave this house. There’s a hill behind us. On a nice morning I can sit on the back patio and watch deer graze and coyotes forage for food. I consider it my hill and I will hate to give it over to a stranger.
      I hope that you will be able to hold onto your home and your room.
      Thank you for the kind words,

  5. Hettie D. says:

    I am a person who lives alone and loving it, so my alone space is my whole apartment when nobody visiting. Still… I envy “the space where you come to read and think.” I actually have a place in my house which meant to be that… maybe it will be like that.. maybe after I retire?! At least, I have hopes 🙂

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Hettie,
      It is nice having a space to myself. Ironically I sometimes go to write at a local coffee house. It’s noisy and there are plenty of distractions but I seem to be able to work well there. That and it’s a chance to get out of the house when the rain keeps outdoors off the menu.
      Thank you for reading and commenting

  6. Tina Schell says:

    How sad did you wish to make us feel Paul – because you sure had an affect on me! I loved your post from start to finish and understand completely how you feel about your home and your room. But you do take the love of your family and friends with you wherever you go, and I promise that’s the most important thing of all. Thanks so much for joining us with this one.

    1. Paul says:

      Hmmm, I didn’t intend to make people feel sad but I suppose that if I struck a cord then my writing is, in some odd way, a success. This house is the longest I’ve been in any one place, longer even than my parent’s home. For a time, after moving out, I jumped from place to place and the only sadness was over having to go through the hassle of moving out of one place and into another. This is new territory.
      I’m glad you liked the post, sorry if it saddened you.

  7. PR says:

    Beautiful post Paul and lovely pictures. Only one thing comes to my mind that can probably help you overcome your sadness about moving. It’s not the room that has the memories – it’s your mind that has stored the memories. So no matter wherever you go, you can just close your eyes and bring up any memory you like! The sadness comes if we are putting our attachment to the physical thing but if we can understand that everything is temporary and be thankful for the thing to have been part of our life’s experience, it removes the sadness and makes us enthusiastic for the next thing that would come and give new experiences!

Would love to hear from you

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