Friday is our new settlement date on the house. We even have a time scheduled, so it seems that all this long waiting is about to end. And then the Era of Destruction will begin. I have to say I’m pretty excited about it; the Architect has promised to teach me carpentry. I have carved before, and used the radial arm saw, the band and scroll saws and the drill press, so I’m not totally unfamiliar with tools-of-power. But, learning the finer points of the craft will be an exciting challenge.
I think the part of the renovation process I’m most excited about is the attic. We’re planning to open the stairways to the second and attic levels and have the stairs float away from the wall, which will become built-in shelves spanning all three levels, floor to attic ceiling. The attic will eventually become our loft bedroom, which is what I’m really excited about. Ever since I was eight and first read A Little Princess I’ve wanted to live in an attic. Or, rather, I’ve wanted to live in what Sara’s attic became after Ram Dass got through with it.
Attics are precious spaces these days. Most modern houses now have either that pull down ladder-of-death, or the pop-up ceiling tile, both of which invariably lead to a three-foot crawl space populated by ceiling joists, insulation and A.C. units–a location even Sara would find difficult imagining into a comfortable room. The remaining older garrets where one can stand up without risking head trauma or falling through the floor have been largely ignored due to “creepiness,” and trips into them are saved only for when Christmas decorations must be retrieved or returned. All of this is too bad, because many times it is this very room that has the best exposure to the bright morning sun, the least worn hardwood floors, the most interesting ceiling lines, and–especially in our house’s case–the second largest amount of square-footage. But, maybe it’s just me. I was, after all, the little girl who walked around clutching a worn green novel while wearing her grandfather’s old threadbare bathrobe, pretending to be Sara in her castoff’s clothes.
Speaking of carrying around a book like a favorite stuffed toy, I have a new fascination. It’s called The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden. This novel is the first in a series by Catherynne M. Valente, who is fairly young, and wholly brilliant. It’s the story of an orphaned, outcast little girl with eyes ringed like kohl. The dark smudges are actually stories printed on her eyelids. When a boy prince finds her hiding in the palace gardens, a tentative friendship forms and she begins telling her stories to him. What Catherynne has done is woven a gorgeous labyrinth of fantastical tales–stories within stories within stories. The genius required for plotting aside, every sentence is beautiful, her use of metaphor and imagery so skilled that I can’t help see everything she says with almost painful clarity.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m in complete awe. It’s been a while since I carried a book around the house with me, but I’m doing it now. I take it from room to room, hoping to snatch a few sentences here and there. I sit it nearby on my desk, keeping it close….for what purpose I don’t really know. Maybe I’m hoping some of Ms. Valente’s talent will rub off on me. It’s difficult, as a writer, to see work like that and know I’ll never be as good. But, as a reader, well, I’m happily walking around like I did when I was little Sara Crewe. Except this time, there’s no need for dressing up–I’ve already got the raccoon-eye going on. If only my eyeliner would tell me a story…
If you haven’t picked up this book, do it. Really. I’m never this enthusiastic with my praise.