Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Island

It's 4:48 in the morning and I am happily at my computer. Writing.

Ages ago, in a different incarnation, I was a writer in disguise: mother, cook, cleaner, counselor - not necessarily in this order. We lived in a two-tiny-bedrooms apartment, and naturally those went to the kids. The living room doubled as the masterbed at nights.

A room of my own? Not even a bed, or a chair.

From time to time friends would give me keys to a vacant house, and I would sneak off for a day to write.

One day I discovered there are places known as Writers' Colonies. It gave me so much strength! So, there are places where not only writing but the writer herself is respected! I started telling people that we need to have such a place here in Israel.

To my great surprise, no one said, "Fine! I'm going to build one!" What they said - the ones who did not declare this a crazy idea - was: "Fine! Do it!"

Finally in 1984 I plucked up courage and established two residences for writers and artists, in Galilee and in the Desert. International they were, and the writers each had his/her modest renovated old apartment, for up to three months.

In exchange for this they contributed to the regional Jewish-Arab community actually over five hundred cultural and educational activities.

As for myself, I did have a room and a chair and a table and a bed - in the respective offices, or worldwide where I went to raise funds.

I was always writing in my head and on scraps of paper, in the bus, on planes, waiting for meetings. Then one day, eleven years later, my innkeeper, my devoted innkeeper which my body is, reminded me, not so gently, that it was time to have a room of my own before I collapsed.

Dutifully, I obeyed.

So here I am, in my large apartment, free at last and on my own. One room is my independent studio. Another room is the archive, with all my writing projects, except the current one, organized on files and far out of sight.

A third one is the room where I keep my sewing machine and ironing board and the winter clothes. I go there from time to time to dust and water the plants... Sewing, ironing, all those mundane "have-to's" can wait.

My apartment is filled with plants, the window frames and the doors covered with colorful paint. I'm surrounded by art and books and classical music. When people come in, they say, "It's like Nirvana here. So different from the violent world outside!"

But the outside knocks on my windows, seeps in through the radio news, throws itself in my face from the newspapers lined up outside kiosks down the whole length of the main and side streets.

So my working place, my faithful apartment, is my refuge, the only place where up to now I can be "the mistress of my destiny", sovereign.

I choose when to turn on the radio, open the door, answer the phone. Banished are the TV and all mobile phones.

I was a resident at two distinguished artists' colonies in the USA. The food is good, the country green and peaceful, (or so it used to be back then before 9/11); but nothing compares with my little tranquil island.

Here I'm closer to my colleagues, Palestinian and Israeli writers and peace activists.

In the Heart of Darkness, they are my island.