Setting up my office

I may have mentioned at some point that my program recently moved to new office space. Slowly but surely, I have been furnishing the suite, stocking the supply closet, and appointing my own office. This is very exciting for me, as it’s the first time I really have my own workspace — with windows and a door. I feel especially lucky because I was able to pick out my furnishings. As you might guess, I asked for bookshelves, first and foremost!

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Clearly, I need some plants

Shelf space is at a premium in our apartment, and there are lots of volumes that just make a bit more sense on campus than at home — journals, for example, and works of criticism. I still have all of the texts I ever taught, as well as plenty that I read for research. Having them in my “staff” office feels like that old part of me still exists. That’s also why I hung up my Concord map over the meeting chairs.

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Henry David Thoreau would disapprove of all the things on my desk that gather dust

Maybe it is a little silly that I want to have a “writerly” or “scholarly” office as a mere staff person. But in some ways, it’s all the same, right — it’s about sitting at your desk and doing the work. Being in a space that makes you feel like yourself surely helps you do the work.

Every morning you climb several flights of stairs, enter your study, open the French doors, and slide your desk and chair out into the middle of the air. The desk and chair float thirty feet from the ground, between the crowns of maple trees. The furniture is in place; you go back for your thermos of coffee. Then, wincing, you step out again through the French doors and sit down on the chair and look over the desktop. You can see clear to the river from here in winter. You pour yourself a cup of coffee.

Birds fly under your chair. In spring, when the leaves open in the maples’ crowns, your view stops in the treetops just beyond the desk; yellow warblers hiss and whisper on the high twigs, and catch flies. Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.

–Annie Dillard

Well, it isn’t so nice as that. But at least I can see trees from my desk, even if it stays very much planted on the floor.