Chez Songbird, The Inner Landscape


In our 1928 Dutch Colonial, there are old cast-iron radiators, and in the long, narrow living room, there is one long radiator beneath a double window. The floor plan of the room presents challenges. The vestibule opens right across from the door to the kitchen, and there really is no way not to have that divide the space into one small space to the right as you enter and one large space to the left.  

It's not a space designed for modern living.

When we moved into the house in 1998, the living room became a holding area for things that belonged to my parents and grandmothers, other people's living room furniture. When Pure Luck first came into our lives, he defined it as "old lady." It didn't matter to me much because we used the sun room as our family room: the place we hung out together, watched TV, talked, received visitors.The living room served as the place for a party or the Christmas tree. The small side had just enough space on one wall for my spinet piano from childhood and on the shorter opposite wall for the oversized china cupboard passed down from my great-grandmother. We rarely inhabited the other end, the one with the fireplace, and the oriental rug I love from childhood, and an assortment of over-fancy end tables and such. 

This had to change when we added a tall man and two big dogs to the family. We needed more space to hang out together. I brought in a carpenter to create a TV shelf for the built-in bookcase by the fireplace. We reupholstered a couch and brought it down from #1 Son's room, and the same with a chair from my room. We made the fireplace more appealing to use by taking off the glass doors and the filthy "curtain."

We moved out the uncomfortable and fancy furniture from olden days. 

I realized it did not fit the live we were living. 

That life became increasingly casual as I saw the havoc created by the two big dogs. Washable slipcovers became part of the equation. There are still touches of long ago, in particular two old chairs I love (my grandmother's rocker, my mother's corner chair), but on the whole the emphasis is on comfort and community, within the limits of a long, rectangular room. 

Except for moving another rocking chair in and out to make room for the Christmas tree, we haven't moved or changed the furniture for years. And I realized that's not like me. I've always loved moving the furniture around. Dorm rooms and bedrooms were rearranged regularly. But with this living room, I had reached the conclusion there was only one way to make it work.

Radiator  Then I pulled a throw off the back of the couch and felt how warm it was from sitting right above the radiator, and it struck me that all the radiator could possibly be doing was heating up the back of the couch.

This morning, Pure Luck humored me by moving the furniture.I'm sitting on my couch, typing this, warmed by the now exposed radiator. I'm looking at my house, my world, from a different angle. 

There have been many times in my life that I convinced myself there was only one way to do something. Many. At crucial moments, I've rooted myself in one way of looking at the future, one way of reckoning the possibilities. 

What moves us to try something new, to see a different way become clear?

Sometimes it's as simple as a practical realization. It's cold this weekend, very cold, and I want to feel the heat the radiator can give me! I wonder, what else have I been muffling? And what will I need to rearrange to stop it?

10 thoughts on “Rearranging”

  1. It is a great metaphor. And isn’t it a fine balance to strike between finding something that is “right” and sticking with it and being willing to stretch and see things in a new way?

  2. I like this a lot. We’ve been rearranging furniture a lot lately, too, suddenly moved by an urge to make each room as liveably as possible.

  3. I love reading your stories and imagining myself standing right in the middle! I, too, have a long, narrow living room that used to be my Dad’s apartment on our house. Since he died, we’ve opened the wall between house and apartment, removed a small kitchen area, and made ourselves a “master suite.” I’ve always left the furniture the way Dad had it until my future daughter-in-law came and rearranged it all to make the room more usable at Christmas for our ever-growing family. I thought I’d lose a piece of Dad if I changed anything, but I find that wasn’t the case. I think he’s saying, “Now why didn’t I think of that.” Sorry for the long reply, but you moved the brain out of the stupor it’s been in and I thank you.

  4. Wonderful narrative…about living rooms and living life! So help me see how your LR is arranged now =)

  5. I too have often moved furniture and rearranged my living space…but not here. For two years everything has been in the exact place we put it when we moved in. So, I guess I’ve been stuck in more ways than one. Soon I will donate all of my hand-me-down upholstered furniture and prepare to load up a van and move back to the Midwesst where all of what I “own” will go into a storage locker. Who knows where I will arrange it next? Or, even, if?
    How weird is that?

  6. Another great example that there’s never just one way to do something. Whether it be in life or arranging furniture! 🙂

  7. This is a very thought-provoking story. I’ve been trying to shake out my “in a rut” thinking lately, but haven’t made much progress with it. Maybe, if I’m very brave, I should ask God to do the shaking up.

  8. Isn’t it interesting that we get so locked into things being a certain way that we cease to imagine the possibilities of something all together different? Furniture is a good metaphor for life indeed. What other things are we just “stepping around” because they’ve been there for so long? Hmmm…. lots of food for thought this morning.

  9. I love radiators. I love the way they smell when they’re nice and hot. I love sitting on or near them. (Most of mine are bench-sized.)
    So for me your metaphor is just as much about the new-found warmth of the radiators as it is about re-arranging your life or surroundings. Songbird is the radiator of her family – offering warmth and comfort even when encumbered by metaphorical furniture.

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