The next monthly challenge of my local writing group is the topic ‘Trees.’ The first thoughts tumbling through my head cried out, “This is too overwhelming. Where do I start?” I took a breath, grabbed one of my writing journals and started writing, hoping to make sense of the topic. It occurred to me, if I write a short piece of free writing every day, one will take my fancy and will be suitable for developing into a more polished piece. Of the three written so far, this childhood memory is my favourite.
The bottom of the backyard boasted a magnificent macrocarpa hedge, trees closely planted and merging their branches so closely they were more effective than a wooden fence. On the neighbours side the hedge was trimmed neat and tidy, a perfect boundary to their perfect garden. Our side grew in an unruly tangle, like a child’s unbrushed hair, matching the rest of our backyard.
Over the years the tree had grown thick and bushy, providing a total curtain between the two properties. But, down in the corner, behind our overgrown vegetable garden, hidden from the prying eyes of my household, the hedge and I shared a secret. A little parting of the branches close to the ground protected a hollow space, a sanctuary large enough for a budding writer to hide away from the prying eyes of the neighbours and my family.
I often wandered out to the hiding hole and stayed out of sight as long as I dared. I sat crouched, not wanting to attract attention, until one day I picked up a broken branch and started sweeping the earth beneath me, transforming the hole into a secret home.
Back in my bedroom I gathered a few treasured belongings, like a squirrel stashing away its stores for winter – a book, a scribble pad, pencils and pens and an old discarded box for storing them in. After further rummaging in other parts of the house I found an old biscuit tin, perfect for storing food supplies of broken biscuits, apples and sweets, necessary for my more prolonged stays in the hide-out. An old doll from the toy box came along to keep me company.
My hole in the hedge gradually became my castle. For one long summer I became the mistress of my kingdom. Whenever I needed to disappear I had a place to call home, where I could read and write, play imaginary games and munch on my secret food supplies. My only visitor was our old cat, who sometimes followed me to my haven. If others were aware of my secret place, they didn’t let on.
When winter came I moved back inside, behind the couch in a rarely used sitting room. Not quite as private as the hole in the hedge, it served the same purpose. I seemed to thrive in small spaces. Now, all these years later, I long for a small quiet space, hidden from others, where my thoughts can tumble onto the page without interruption. I need an adult version of the hole in the hedge.
What about you? Are you lucky enough to have a private space for your creativity? Or do you, like me, drift through the house, inhabiting the quietest place you can find when you need to write?