Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Travels in the Solarium
So, yes, when I was a boy my father lived in a house at the very end of long, tree-lined street. It backed onto a hillside, overlooking the sea. This was on 7th Street in Montara, for anyone who knows Northern California well. The front door had been painted with a sun's face by the previous tenants.
A girl named Marina lived next door (the youngest of three blonde daughters). She was a few years older than me and used to play tennis, alone, at the high school down the road on the weekends, swatting balls against the side of a wall for practice and returning up the hill, in the evening, red with perspiration. At night, I would often dream of her whispering beneath my window and try to figure out ways for her to get up through a second story window or how I might get down. I remember imagining ladders often: the ludicrous but somehow folkloric image of a girl carrying a ladder down the street from one garage door to the next in the moonlight.
Anyway, at the back of my father's house was a greenhouse whose frosted windows looked out on the backyard. The sliding door that divided the kitchen from this place was usually left open, so that you could see from the living room, in an open plan, over the kitchen table and into the this golden, warm, planter-boxed and herb-scented place--a liminal room halfway indoors and halfway out.
It was here we sometimes ate in summer (pulling the kitchen table out), also housed a puppy named Julie in a crate after I picked her out of a litter of week old labrador retrievers--my father saying it would be best if we placed an alarm clock in the crate with her, under the blanket, to remind her of her missing mother's heartbeat.
But the greenhouse for me was, above all, the best place in the world to read. I still fantasize, even now, about going back there to quietly devour books, the sound of a rustling willow tree in the garden, with its empty hammock, audibly swaying, like an echo of the sea just a short walk away. Reading in the greenhouse, just as an idea, as a possiblity, is a little bit of heaven I carry around with me to this day.