Dear Nancy:

I love this that you say: “I believe that as an artist the one thing I must do for myself that no one else can do is protect and nurture my creativity.”

I have so much to say about this one sentence that I hardly know where to begin. I think about everything from long swims in the lake where I used to live to conversations with friends I love to the stack of books on my bedside table. At the present time in my life, my partner and I are scouring streets and real estate listings and newspapers in our search for a home for the next few years, so I also think about spaces that have nurtured me most. The room upstairs in my grandmother’s house in eastern Kentucky, the sloped tin roof and the Jenny Lind bed and the boxes of fabric for her quilts. My childhood’s room in another house where I spent a lot of time reading books far beyond my years or lying awake late at night listening to my parent’s unhappy voices and making up adventure stories about the ocean.


Where I write has always been very connected to the protection of my creativity.

The house I rented on Phoenix Cove Road, outside Weaverville in North Carolina, was a log cabin at the head of a hollow. I had a room that looked out into deep woods and a wood stove beside a couch where I could curl up with the pages of my first novel.

Another house. Lynchburg, Virginia. A college campus nearby and the voices of my students late at night from the street. My writing room there was the dining room, a dilapidated oak table and kerosene lamp.

And a house in Georgia, one on a lake. My writing space there was all over, every room. Piles of student manuscripts here. Pages of a new novel there.

Over the years, I’ve lived in something like thirty seven houses. I could write a memoir about houses and the path my writing life has taken in all of them.

These days, the house I want is on a street with sidewalks. I could go for some huge, shady trees. A coffee shop or a grocery within walking distance. But that isn’t the house I most want. These days, the house I want is inside me. Mircea Eliade called it axis mundi. Sacred space. Place here that connects there. Connects to heart and spirit.

And that, I know, is the house that only exists inside myself. Inside the house of flesh and bones. That is one I must learn how to nurture, and the one I’ve nurtured least in all my journeying .


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