By guest blogger, Cyra McFadden

For twenty years or so, I’ve had a fantasy about living in two white rooms filled with light, and little else. In one room there’d be a bed and a nightstand where I could pile books, in the other a chair with a high back and a good reading light beside it. That’s where I’d spend my time at home when I wasn’t in bed, serene in my white sheets and under my white comforter.

There’ll have to be a bathroom, but I haven’t figured out where. I could share one down the hall, as long as the other users don’t leave hair in the shower drain. No kitchen, because after an adult lifetime of cooking, I’m out of menu ideas. For food, I’ll pick up my white phone and order take-out. The dream is to simplify my life and substitute maintenance free minimalism for 74 years of accumulating things.

No more dusting bookshelves, baseboards, mirrors, windowsill, pictures. No more mopping and scrubbing. No more houseplants waiting for me to notice that they’re dying and over-water them. No more desk piled with junk mail, manuscripts, six-month-old New Yorker’s and for all I know, the odd fried egg sandwich.

Farewell, jammed closets. I get rid of clothes that I don’t wear because they’re too big or too small or because I’ve decided that I hate them. The same closet fills up again. I’d attribute this to an unseen force but I know it happens because I like clothes too much. For years, when I lived in San Francisco, a wardrobe full of big city clothes made sense. Now that I live on a houseboat across the Bay, jeans and tee shirts suffice for everything except funerals. One little black dress has the clothes situation covered.

Part of the two-white-room fantasy is that I can become like an exemplary friend who, as she puts it, “lives light.” How freeing living light would be. How good for the planet. And it’s never going to happen.

The truth is that I love my stuff and enjoy being surrounded by it. The piles of books assure me that I’ll never lack something to read. The artwork that crams my walls delights me; that’s why I bought it (duh). The photos of family and friends that vie for space on every surface are keepers, too, and I can’t part, ever, with a gift that someone has given me. How could I give up the two heavy crystal highball glasses I never use, when a friend lugged them over from England? Throw out the collars of dear departed dogs? Donate the custom-made teddy bear that my daughter gave me, for comfort during a bad time, to the charity shop? I’m sure some small child would like it. Too bad, kid, get your sticky fingers off it.

Someone reading this is muttering, “Oh please. Grow up.” Mutter away, sensible people. I’m a woman of strong attachments, especially to my musician partner. And there’s the hitch. In those fantasy spare, white rooms, he and his instrument would have to spend their days out of sight, which means under the bed. He plays stand-up bass. Okay, maybe three white rooms.


Cyra McFadden’s Bio:

Cyra McFadden is a Bay Area novelist and journalist.  Her first book, The Serial: A Year in the Life of Marin County, was a bestseller here and in the U.K.  Her second, Rain or Shine, A Family Memoir, was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the category of non-fiction.  Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Smithsonian and other magazines.

She has also been a newspaper columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and UPI, Writer in Residence at St. Paul’s Girls’ School, London, England, and Richard Hugo Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Montana, Missoula, Montana.

Born in Great Falls, Montana, McFadden received her B.A. and M.A. degrees in English Literature (the latter Magna Cum Laude) from San Francisco State University, where she also taught in the English and Creative Writing departments. She now lives on a houseboat in Sausalito, California and works as a free-lance writer and editor.