The desk I sit at used to live in my great-grandparents’ house on Walnut Street. The one with the wrap-around porch and stained-glass windows, with a coal-burning furnace in the basement and a secret room upstairs behind a false-backed closet. When my great-aunt Hazel with the red hair attended secretary school, her young son Frank did his schoolwork at this desk. His name is carved inside one of the drawers.
When I moved into my first apartment, I took the desk with me out of nostalgia. No one else found it useful, but I enjoyed looking at my cousin’s name etched inside a drawer, a Barney Google and Snuffy Smith comic strip glued inside another drawer, and my dad’s collection of slide rulers and printer blocks packed into a third drawer.
The desk sat in the entryway of my apartment. My mother had a key and would let herself in while I was at work. I would know she had been there by the state of the desk. She always covered it in confetti, and left a small gift. Most moms carry Kleenex in their purse. My mother packed around confetti because you never know when you are going to celebrate someone.
Today the desk sits in my home office, with a Plexiglas top to protect the old wooden surface. Under the Plexiglas is a quote by Camus, a topo map of somewhere special, and a wallet-sized 20-point memo on good writing from a professor. I remember the day he reached into the back pocket of his trousers and pulled out a small slip of green paper, stating, “I leave you all with a gift today.” He made a list of 20 points for clear writing when he graduated college years before, and kept it in his wallet for reference. That day he handed out wallet-sized lists to his own students.
In addition to these gifts of inspiration, I keep Mary Kiesau’s calendar on the desktop under the Plexiglas. The month of September had a photo of a mountain goat with two fluffy kids. October is a color-filled portrait of the beaver pond by Sun Mountain Lodge. Each month feels like a gift from Mary’s lens and artful eye. There are only three months left in Mary’s calendar. I’m ready for 2020 to come to a close, but I’ll never be ready to let this calendar go. Perhaps it will stay with this desk of gifted stories.
Speaking of stories, local writer Peter Donahue teamed up with artist Robin Nelson Wicks to create Miscellaneous Friends, a series of portraits of 50 characters both real and imagined. Four of these pieces can be sampled online at Peach Magazine, http://www.peachmgzn.com/peter-donahue-robin-nelson-wicks. I found them to be a rich gift of diversion.
I will be “growing” the winter light garden at the Native Plant Garden again this year. If anyone would like to make a gift of strings of lights, I will happily put them to festive use.