Buddha and bird paperweight

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.

Henry in his new habitat

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.

Home office guardian

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.

Pen holder

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.

Mugs and tea

This past year for Christmas, I asked J to buy me the same desktop radio and water boiler he has in his office: the radio for playing classical music while I work and the water boiler to provide a ready supply of hot water for tea. Yesterday, I completed my home office setup by adding some stacking mugs and a bamboo tea box to organize my supply of green and herbal teas: a simple addition that makes my home office more organized and visually appealing.

I type these words, I’m listening to classical guitar music while sipping a cup of pomegranate white tea, the simple addition of music and hot beverages making my home office much cozier and conducive to productivity. Controlling one’s environment is an important part of honing one’s habits, and I find myself more willing to spend hours at my desk working now that I have both music and hot beverages close at hand.