Making Out: A Meditation, Space and Time

Making Out is a series centered on how Jess Burnquist, mother, writer, and teacher is "making out' as she processes adolescent issues amid the glare of parenthood and the shadows of nostalgia.

My writing table is situated behind a bay window that looks out onto our front yard and street. I used to hang heavy drapes in order to keep away the distractions, but now I only hang sheer curtains because I have learned that distractions aren’t always what they seem.

What I mean by this is that every morning there is a hummingbird hovering above the sugar water feeder. What I mean by this is that monsoon clouds are building in the east and the light outside is changing.

When routine begins to feel like a chore, it may be a good idea to hang sheer curtains. To take in the view with a filter. The woman who permits her dog to shit in our yard glows behind the maroon sheer fabric. I resist the urge to bang on the window when she leaves without scooping. The patterns caught by sunlight make my neighborhood interesting again.

For years, I felt badly that I prefer being at my desk to being in a crowd. I felt fraudulent because in the world, I am approachable and some might mistake this trait for being socially comfortable. Still, it is at this desk, behind the window which is shaded for hours by a lush jacaranda tree that I make sense of each day. Perhaps my daydreams are really billable hours.

My children refer to my writing space as “Mom’s Area.” I can’t remember how this began. I think every mother needs an area. My area is part of the dining room in which no one dines. There are bookshelves, a card table, a sofa and an elliptical machine. All are welcome everywhere except my desk which is really an old kitchen table. A table on which we all used to dine.

This week faraway friends write about their anxieties. I note that they are all mothers. Sometimes I feel one half guilt, one half hope. This is how I express what it feels like to be a mother. For example, I am guilty of letting my child sleep past ten in the morning because I hope to get some writing done in silence. Silence is the lottery. Silence is the jackpot. Silence is a drug.

My dog curls at my feet as I write. Sometimes he stretches out and yawns. I take this as a signal to revise. Other times, he stretches, leaves, and returns with an old sock. I might take this as a signal to tend to laundry. Instead, I ball up the sock and decide he means that he wants to play. "Fetch," I yell.

My biggest distraction is doubt.

Two doves are perched on a low branch in the jacaranda. They are clearly in love. At the trunk, a neighborhood cat spots them and moves into a predatory crouch. This is how writing feels. Also, this is how parenting feels.

My area has never felt like a war zone. Sometimes, a tower. Sometimes, a factory. I am grateful for the grafitti on my table desk. Daughter drew a heart and a monster years ago. Son carved his initials as one might into a tree trunk. They are both closer to leaving this home then they are to remaining, and their claims on my desk remind me that once I was needed, more infringed upon.

A bay window is interesting in that there are three views. My window peers to the east, to the west, and to the north. What I mean is that, here, I can reflect on the past, the now, and the future. All the while, pale blossoms bloom and blow away in the heat, and as they are carried across the yard in swoops and swirls, I think they look like time.

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