The Blue Room

by | Jan 10, 2023

As 2022 straggled to an end, I made plans to clean out the Blue Room. The Blue Room is that catch-all room in the house where an assortment of stuff seems to multiply. After four years in this house, it’s finally time to sort through what’s left in that room and make some decisions about what to keep, what to give away, and what to simply trash.

So, in preparation for the new year, I made plans as confident as someone who had sailed through the past year on smooth water, wind at my back. In truth, the year ended as hard and tangled as it began: broken shoulder, kidney stones too big to pass, the deaths of friends, life threatening health challenges for dear friends and extended family. Our 7-year-old black cat, Hannah, was diagnosed with “likely cancer” and given “maybe months” to live. Ed and I lost our faith community. I made plans, plans changed, we postponed/canceled trips. I began to feel that Mercury was in permanent retrograde. The sub-zero temperatures just here in the mountains just before Christmas arrived like an exclamation point on the year – one deep, cold stab. I reminded myself again, and again, that all this is temporary, that neither the highs nor the lows remain static. Change. Growth. It’s messy, or usually is for me.

As if on que, the spring-like temperatures arrived just in time for New Year’s Eve, reminding me of the good things from 2022. Ed and I ended the year in good health and happy with the way we had navigated 2022. I enjoyed numerous readings with friends across the state – as much community building events as book promotion. I live in a comfortable, warm, and lovely home in woods, have access to healthy food, and clean water. Mount Mitchell, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and numerous hiking trails are practically in my back yard. Hannah, the cat that appeared near death in July, regained the lost weight and appears healthy and feisty as ever. We have a new baby in my extended family. Maybe there’s more worth keeping about that difficult year than I initially thought.

Long ago, I gave up the traditional New Year’s resolutions in favor of taking a look back at the past year and setting goals. Not this year. I did none of that.  No resolutions, no look back at the past year, and no goal setting. I made plans to clean the Blue Room.

The Blue Room is an 8 1/2 x 9 1/2 foot windowless square on the lower level of our house. It has no window, but does have a closet, so it can be classified as a bedroom. For us, the Blue Room is where we store Christmas decorations, photographs, party supplies, and framed art we have yet to hang. It’s the place where we put “stuff” – from the traveling coffee maker to empty boxes – that we don’t know what to do with, but “might need some day.” Everything that does not have a permanent home in this house ends up in the Blue Room, so named because the walls are painted a shade of blue somewhere between aquamarine and teal. I happen to like the color and the way the painted four seasons’ panels on the very large German shrunk pick up the wall color. The shrunk is also stuffed with stuff.

“We are going to sort and clean out everything we do not want or need before – before – we move into this house,” I declared in late 2018. I did not want the boxes and stuff that found its way into our Asheville house in 1999 to follow us to this much smaller home. It had been easy almost 20 years ago when we moved into the too-big house with an unfinished basement as big as the house’s footprint to bring all my stuff, Ed’s stuff, his late wife’s stuff, and the stuff they had collected together over 23 years of marriage. I also brought stuff from my late parents. It was a lot of stuff. In the almost 20 years that we lived in that house, we did manage to sort through, toss and give away a lot of the stuff. But, in spite of my best efforts, a fair amount of “I’m not sure what to do with this” followed us to Burnsville and took up residence in the Blue Room.

I like order. I crave order. I would love to be a minimalist. But that’s a goal, something to strive for rather than my reality. So, we have the Blue Room, a mere postage stamp of the chaos of stuff that resided in the Asheville basement. Still, my plan for this month is to bring order to the Blue Room. And yes, I realize that any order will be temporary.

It’s a lot like my life, this desire for order, the need to sort through accumulated “stuff,” keep what is important, give away or toss what no longer serves me or brings joy. It’s a process, like writing.

The Blue Room

Within this room resides
loose artifacts from a fractured life –
framed art, a lamp without a shade,
old love letters from my parents
to each other, birthday cards, photographs
that record the passage of years,
reminders of what mattered. A roasting pan,
a cat carrier share shelf space.

This is what my life resembles –
random objects too dear to toss,
the near miss useful or lovely
stuff that brought me joy.

I’ll start by staying in the present
tense both grammar and emotion.

*   *   *

When I started this blog in July 2021, I made a commitment to myself to post every other week, on a Monday, for a year. I kept that commitment for 16 months, until November, 2022. Now I’m ready to release myself from deadlines. I’ll likely post less often as I turn my attention to a couple of writing projects I’ve neglected. Thank you for reading.

8 Comments

  1. nancy dillingham

    “Clearing the Clutter”

    I am clearing the clutter
    a real dust up
    that both elevates and deflates

    Just when was I size 8
    and am I still in love
    with graffiti, mufti, and ink?

    For the life of me
    I don’t know why
    I feel so luckless

    as I come and go in my intent
    measuring out my life
    in cardboard boxes and lint

    Am I not glad to be free
    raising windows, throwing caution
    and curtains to the wind?

    Maybe I’ll settle then
    erase traces
    of all paltry rebellions

    adjust to my robe and scuffs
    and just one comfy chair
    jettisoning my load

    like the lone lush peony
    in the glass bowl
    on the table in the hall

    soft pink petals
    plummeting

    Reply
    • Carol

      Absolutely lovely.

      Reply
      • Pat Riviere-Seel

        Thank you, Carol! I realize you know all too well the sorting, cleaning and deciding what to keep. Miss you in Burnsville. Let me know when you are back in town.

        Reply
    • Stephanie Dean

      Thank you, Pat, for this lovely writing on a challenge I face, as well – a blue room.. The room is full of “fractured” vestiges of a well-lived, full, and sometimes, broken life.

      I hope you are doing well, and enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for your words.

      Reply
      • Pat Riviere-Seel

        Thank you, Stephanie! I think this is a challenge many can relate to. “a well-lived, full, and sometimes, broken life,” is a lovely way to describe this human journey.

        Hope you are well and that your writing is going well!. Hope our paths cross again soon.

        Reply
  2. Pat Riviere-Seel

    Love this poem, Nancy! Especially the images in the last five lines. Hope your New Year is off to a good start.

    Reply
  3. Bill Griffin

    Both of these poems offer a winsome seasoning of hope — just like everything you write here, Pat! Don’t make us wait TOO long for the next installment.

    Reply
    • Pat Riviere-Seel

      Thank you, Bill, for the encouragement. I’m hoping to post a new blog at least once a month. This writing has been a process for me – first having to break a lot of journalistic habits when I started writing poetry, and now trying to create prose that still contains the poetry.

      Reply

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