I'm sitting in my morning spot. I get up before the sun, make a cup of coffee and sit for hours, getting up only when nature calls. And even that I postpone as long as possible.
On my lap is a cool new 'lap desk' with a hole in the center that helps to keep my laptop from burning my left thigh as it did for the many months before I found the foam and cardboard wonder. I lean back, legs raised, in an Ethan Allen recliner. It has maroon cushions and cherry wood armrests wide enough to hold my cup of coffee. There are wooden slats on each side - arts and crafts style. It is one of six matching pieces of furniture in this, my living room.
As odd as it sounds this furniture, or the thought of this furniture, helped ground me during a difficult, sleepless night back in fall of 2005; I was trying to sleep on a cot in a giant, noisy tent that slept fifty or more. It was a tent city in Baton Rouge LA and it had been built by FEMA to house Katrina relief workers. The National Health and Human Services had picked me as one of the thousands who had volunteered. I felt like I had hit the lottery.
The summer before, Pat and I decided it was time to get rid of the collection of hand-me-downs and Goodwill treasures that had served us well for many years. We were both professionals, after all, and wasn’t it time we had a set of matching living room furniture? It was to be delivered while I was away.
As I lay there the first night, feeling silly in my nightgown, (how did everyone else know to bring pajamas?) I was sure I wanted to be there but oh, so unsure I’d be competent to the next day’s tasks. But, instead of fretting, I thought about what the furniture would look like in my living room. I placed and moved each piece in my head as I tried to fall asleep. It helped me remember I had a living room. A living. A room. A house and a home to return to. Gratefully, I fell asleep.
Gratefully I went to work the next day, and the day after that, sharing my skills and giving my heart to people of all ages, status, and genders in shelter after shelter full of grieving, newly homeless victims of devastation that was not only the result of the natural disaster named Katrina, but also local and federal government ineptitude.
I finished my stint, a peak experience in my life, but I was not the same person
when I returned home. I had a renewed appreciation for the vulnerability and preciousness
of life, a new found respect for the constant fight to prevent entropy and chaos and incompetence from reigning.
And in truth, I was almost surprised to find new furniture in my living room when I returned, so far from my past, from my life, had I roamed in those two short weeks.