After years of working and writing wherever my laptop might take me, I recently got myself a proper desk. I’ve had various desks and workspaces over the years, many of them makeshift, crowded, or otherwise less than ideal, but this is the first time I purchased a solid piece furniture for myself.
It’s funny I’ve waited so long to carve out a workspace in the house J and I share, as I’ve always been strongly influenced by my work environment. I’m something of a nester and like the feeling of having My Own Place to do my thing, whether that’s writing, reading, or tackling teaching tasks. Suddenly the simple act of adding a desk to one corner of our bedroom has consecrated that space, and I find myself wanting to sit at this pleasant place that is officially dedicated to my academic and creative work.
As an inveterate piler, I have made a conscious effort not to turn my desk into another surface for stockpiling odds and ends. Instead, I’ve come to see my desk as a kind of intellectual altar, a place where I streamline my attention by allowing in view only those things I want to focus on.
On my desk are a short stack of library books, a mug with pens, a desk calendar, a soapstone Buddha, and a bird paperweight, each of which reminds me of the things I like to do. Overseeing this is a whimsical portrait of Henry David Thoreau I commissioned Bren Bataclan to paint: a visual reminder of an intellectual idol that reminds me to be simultaneously serious and playful, filled with the active engagement of a curious child.
So now when I sit down with a cup of tea and either my laptop or notebook, I have a clean, uncluttered space to contemplate: a place where I can spread out my books, papers, or whatever else I’m working on. Just as a Dharma room Buddha is a visual representation of the calm, compassionate focus we’d like to attain, my desk is a tangible reminder of the priorities and practices I’d like to cultivate.