Superman has his Fortress of Solitude. Batman his Batcave. Luke Cage found brotherhood in Pop’s barbershop.
A little while ago a commentator on a GvL article asked if any pieces had been written about safe spaces. Got me to thinking. Not necessarily about safe spaces – more about happy places. That moment you can sit down somewhere and just breathe. Plot and plan. Talk to the ancestors (just me?!).
For me they tend to be public places where I can sit and listen to the murmur of people around me without necessarily tuning into the conversation. It’s why I spend a great deal of time in my local Costa (that and the ginger latte cake). I write a lot of my GvL articles in draft there (including this one) – there’s just something about that subconscious background noise that allows me to flex my writing fingers like the proverbial notebook scribbling stereotype. They also know never to serve me more than one coffee or I bounce off the walls…
There are other spaces I have made my own over the years. There’s the Settee of Shame in our local hostelry – perfect for wine and a good babble at the other half. There’s sitting on the back of a metro train watching the tunnels twist and vault behind me, letting my thoughts drift on the wind. When I worked in a busy town centre I found myself frequently in a former Victorian meat market early in the morning, watching the ebb and flow of life and death before pulling myself together enough to head into work.
Then there are libraries, the cathedrals of the mind. I am a member of several, both public and private. I am on occasion primly Edwardian so Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society (a lot more friendly than it sounds) is the perfect refuge. High vaulted ceilings, large wooden desks, books that scale up twenty foot walls, coffee and biscuits on tap. The babble of the Latin Society behind me, the clack of student keyboards behind. And relax!
I am blessed with happy places. Places I can go and find solitude. Find refuge from a world than can be pretty brutal at times. I suspect we all have them. Places that give us calm or feed our curiosity. Perhaps both. Places that stimulate and reassure.
You can find them online. Tap into it whenever you need to – the GvL community very much personifies a happy place for me. In a world filled with online snark it remains a blissfully supportive, thoughtful community.
You do find places change, mutate. Lose their peace. And that sometimes you have to let them go. I had a cabin in the woods. A proper ramshackle, run down hovel that overlooked a wildflower garden full of bees and insects – and our big black dog. This was her happy place. The years rolled off her on arrival even as her muzzle grew greyer. Then one day she was no longer with us. And the shack had to go. The pain of being there without the hairy old diva was just too much. It’s gone to a lovely family who will make it their special place and for that I’m glad. It should be filled with laughter and life. And I needed to say goodbye.
So find your space. Cherish it. Have a backup happy space plan. You can find one in your own home – a study, a bookshelf, a you-nook. I highly recommend a settee in your local café bar (even though it tends to render me a little insensible!).
Some of you may have one in the local cinema, your favourite theatre or the coffee shop across the street from where you work. You might also have found a way to turn public transport into your own space zone. Or it could simply be sitting on the edge of a beach looking out to the horizon. It would be great to hear what works for you. In the meantime thanks as always for reading and I hope that right now finds you somewhere good for your soul.