It’s not cramped, it’s cozy … by Deb Alicia

Alicia Bessette

Welcome to the corner of my living room, where I’m sitting at a mismatched desk and chair. Stella the greyhound snores at my feet. I can reach out and touch:

1. a rejection notice from a literary magazine. A big theme in any writer’s life is rejection. Keeping one of those impersonal “thanks but no thanks” notes in plain sight might seem masochistic, but I actually find it inspiring, in an “Oh yeah? We’ll see about that” way.

2. a photograph of my nieces and nephews with their arms around each other, sitting in the bullpen at Fenway Park. Nora is making a sort of crazy tiger face; Tucker is winking; Conor’s blue eyes pop against the green wall; and Celia looks just plain happy, in a long-summer-day kind of way. This photograph reminds me to stay young at heart and sunny in disposition. Especially when I write.

3. a bookmark-sized portrait of Brother Andre, the “Miracle Man of Montreal,” who purportedly healed the multitudes by the laying-on of hands. Because of the major surgery I underwent as a child, and also thanks to Brother Andre, my grandfather’s great-uncle, I’m fascinated with the idea of healing. All Come Home deals with emotional healing among individuals and communities. According to biographers, Brother Andre treated not only Catholics but Protestants, Jews and atheists. In a similar ecumenical spirit, the volunteers in All Come Home visit New Orleans as part of an interfaith rebuilding mission, and swing hammers alongside priests, rabbis, and imams.

4. an official Massachusetts Mid-State Trail patch. The Midstate stretches ninety-five miles across Central Mass from Rhode Island to New Hampshire. Matt and I and two very good friends, Lars and Andrea, hiked it in five-mile stretches over a two-year period. Rock on!

5. a one-page magazine article by the wonderful yoga writer Stephen Cope, featuring the following pull-quote: “Each of us is born with a unique gift—and a sacred duty to fulfill its promise.”

Now let’s look out the window, just beyond my computer screen, onto a South Jersey version of Main Street USA. In two blocks, there is a stamp-and-coin shop; a café; a wedding cake baker; a grocer; an old-fashioned sew-and-vac; a fire extinguisher seller; a gourmet cheese peddler; a yoga studio; a computer store; three hair salons; two travel agencies; and five restaurants. I can’t tell you how much the daily comings-and-goings of these locally-owned establishments fuel my imagination.

Also: What goes on in the mind of the fluffy white cat in the apartment directly across from mine, who sits on the sill for hours, watching traffic and passersby, swishing its tail?

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19 thoughts on “It’s not cramped, it’s cozy … by Deb Alicia

  1. You’re from New Jersey! Me too! I didn’t live close enough to downtown to have that view from my window, but it sounds like my downtown, and, yes, having that kind of activity nearby is inspiring.

    I wouldn’t want to keep my rejections so prominently, though. I try to forget those!

    PS–The fluffy white cat is planning world domination.

  2. Beautifully written, Al. It’s great to “see” not only your workspace but what fuels and inspires you. Love the Brother Andre reference and that you are a distant relative! See, you are performing healing through your words! And of course, the yoga quote! Keep writing the story only you can!

    Namaste!

  3. Loved your telling of the view from your window. I’m still getting used to this new neighborhood, but can look out my second floor bedroom window and see the goings-on. Across the street on the corner a mom & pop sidewalk café opens for breakfast at 0600. They only serve breakfast, then close. They have many kinds of tropical fruit juices and Caldo de gallina – chicken soup. Right across the street is a little store within a house and they only seem to sell eggs, bread and charcoal. A few doors down from that is a house where,late at night, many people seem to come and go, including guys who always seem to have suitcases. A good window is better than TV. Keep up the good work, Al.

  4. I love picturing you in this happy place, writing away. Sounds so peaceful!
    (I think the cat is thinking, “Hey, I could write a book, too, if they’d just buy me a damn computer!)

  5. Thanks, all, for reading along. Emily: I’m not from Jersey, but yes, I choose it! This area has a lot to recommend it. Larramie: Stella isn’t quite tall enough to see out the window. She’s a rather petite greyhound. If she could see the cat, she’d surely spazz. Scott: “A good window is better than TV.” Sounds like the first sentence of a book to me!

  6. the “view” while I write either contains my dog or the highway outside my local starbucks. i have to get better stuff to surround myself with.

  7. I often wish I could be the cat in the window – I can only imagine what happens on my street! I love the way you painted the picture for us of your neices and nephews – there is nothing like the joy children can bring to the world.

  8. Yes, I’m a big believer in surrounding myself with beautiful tokens. (Speaking of which, my husband gave me the photo of Jonathan Papelbon. But husband’s photo hangs slightly higher.)

  9. I loved this–from Massachusetts to Montreal to South Jersey all from your desk! I have special affinity for all three spots, so that’s part of the appeal, but probably would have been drawn to the writing anyway. Brother Andre–didn’t know all this, but I have seen the crutches on the wall at Mont Royal…and in South Jersey, well, I think I may have been on that kind of street. Keep viewing and writing! And don’t listen to any Jersey jokes; I’m from MA (will likely never leave?) but South Jersey has a siren call all its own.

  10. With all the creative writing juices flowing in your home (what with you and your husband both being writers) I can’t wait until Stella decides to pen her own tales too of life, love and cat aggression over a quaint cheese shop.

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