With the world sinking fast in a collective quicksand, I started reflecting on the emotional quality of the spaces we inhabit. It is only within the square footage housing our existence, that life still feels controllable — when the outside is nothing short of dystopian.
With many of us now trapped indoors, our homes become the existence life is centred on. It is the one remaining dimension of reality that is somewhat constant and familiar.
Your bedroom window swings out to the side every morning in the same familiar motion, and the monstera touching the corner of your living room wall has the same tilted, oversized green leaves. The kitchen light reflects a constant silver glow on your stainless steel faucet, and your beige teapot can always be found right there on the countertop by the wooden cutting boards.
Life outside may have changed. But the things that stuck with you over the years haven’t.
It is only within the square footage housing our existence, that life still feels controllable — when the outside is nothing short of dystopian.
I have a fond childhood memory of my grandparents’ farm in Romania. During the hay cutting season, they’d use wide blades attached to sticks, and hay forks — I vividly remember them being twice my height — to build haystack towers.
They weren’t like the horizontal round ones we know here in North America, but cones built around central poles, erected into the sky. I remember those days hiding inside or building intricate inner labyrinths.
However, my happy place was always high up. My grandpa had tall ladders, which helped me carry blankets to the top. Laying at the peak of the haystack, I remember basking in the summer’s warmth for hours. And no one could find me. Or at least, that’s what it felt like.
Looking back now, I realized that happiness was peace as a result of feeling invisible.
Invisible to the world and its dangers.
Invisibility that had nothing to do with being unseeable, and everything with feeling protected.
Invisibility was comfort.
As I step into my bedroom, I reflect on the wooden dresser and bed frame taking up most of the square footage in the room. I bought them from Design Republic when I moved back to Toronto, a local store on Queen Street West. It was my first grown-up furniture. I remember the feeling of accomplishment that followed. Buying the showroom model because it was the only one affordable.
Walking in the narrow space between the bed frame and the wall, I turn my attention to the bedside table. I got it on sale at Home Sense, but many people ask me if I bought it during a trip. ‘It’s such a beautiful piece,’ I keep hearing. I’ve always assumed it looks evocative, like it has the power to transport.
On its bronze surface lays a diffuser, my collection of essential oils, my Kindle, earplugs, a sleep mask — they called it the ‘world’s comfiest sleep mask,’ a ‘Tranquility’ remedy roll-on that was gifted by my roommate at Christmas — it’s supposed to ease you into restfulness, and a vase filled with dried lavender.
Sometimes, I add a yellow-framed photo of an image I picked up from Warsaw. Well, I carried the idea, not the photo itself. I saw it through the large windows of a gallery. I found the image online and printed it when I got back home.
It sometimes falls over — the nightstand is tiny — then I store it away. But its absence feels out of place, so I bring it back out.
It’s hard to remove the keepers of memories, as you’ll discover they never quite leave your memory after all.
I climb into bed and sink into the plush duck-down mattress topper — I remember waiting inside the grown-up furniture store with the package in my hand, calling my prior roommate frantically to measure my bed. I recall recently moving into the place, having no idea if the mattress was a double or a queen.
‘They can’t put items on hold and it’s the last one at 80% off.’
‘But I don’t have a measuring tape!’
‘Just use whatever to get an idea.’ There was no way I was leaving an on-sale quality matters topper out of sight.
I remember packing it into an air-sealed bag when I crossed the ocean back to Canada.
The sheets are crisp white. I sometimes make an effort to iron them. I like the feeling of crispness. And since the pillowcases always tend to look wrinkled, it seems like you’re blurring what’s lived in with what’s showcased.
I guess I like it cause it reminds me of my day-to-day.
Isn’t life but a constant balance between living and preserving?
Whenever I lay in bed, the lights of the tall buildings in the distance don’t remind me of the outside world. Quite the opposite, I’d say. They remind me of the peace inside my confinement.
The bedside table that houses my collection of objects, doesn’t remind me I’m alone — I have only one nightstand. It always lets me know I’m safe.
And when I pull my duvet all the way under my chin, stuffing it under my body, it’s not because I’m cold — my room temperature is always at 22 degrees. The act reminds me of the habitual.
My home also reminds me to be grateful. With homelessness on the rise, and the virus impacting people’s livelihoods, having a peaceful environment you can ‘forget about the world’ in is in fact a privilege — something to count your blessings for.
A few days ago, I considered sleeping on the other side of the bed. And moving my nightstand in the opposite corner. I don’t remember exactly what prompted the sudden yearning for new decor.
But I didn’t.
For once, I wanted the familiar to stay constant.
Because, even when the outside world is crumbling down, I wanted to know my happy place will always stay the same: familiar, safe and comforting.