Where did you study? Was your desk a dining room or kitchen table? The couch? A separate room? Did you listen to music as you studied? Or did you tune out the noise of the household when you crammed for a test or wrote a report? Louise DeSalvo author of The Art of Slow Writing, a book about writing as a meditative, patient process, muses about her own study nook in this excerpt:
My parents valued education, so when I was young, the only time my parents didn’t bother me was when I was doing homework. My father made me a triangular desk that fit into a space at the top of the stairs. . .
Sitting at my desk while I was working, nobody told me what to do. My father was pleased with my industry rather than angry with me. My mother wanted me to study because, no matter how much she needed my help, she wanted me to do well in school. Sitting at my desk working helped me feel a sense of control in my chaotic household (188, 189).
Louise’s writing desk was triangular probably positioned in a corner. It strikes me that she may have faced the wall, not a window, a rather confining, even claustrophobic view.
As for me as a student at Elizabethtown High, when the noise downstairs around my spread at the dining room table overpowered my ability to concentrate, I’d flee upstairs to a study desk that looks like this, a bedside table with a brown goose-necked lamp. Mother had the table refinished years later and replaced my gooseneck lamp with this one: a faux milk-glass base with a lacy, fluted lampshade.
Here’s how I write about this “desk” as a flash of memory:
My books and notebooks are piled on the dining room table. I’m in ninth grade and when the house gets too noisy, I go upstairs to the bedroom I share with my sister Janice and study there. My study table is just a wooden bedside table. It’s tiny, with two of the four legs spaced closer together. There’s space for a little lamp on top and maybe a book or two on the shelf below – a piece of furniture not designed for serious study. There is no place to put my legs really, but I scrunch myself under the teeny table with my knees touching, a brown goose-necked lamp cocked so I can read, take notes on scored 3 x 5 index cards, or write in meticulous cursive in my notebook, one for each subject.
I consumed book chapters, algebraic formulas, and historical data. I also consumed apples, carrots, or oranges. Yes, as I studied, I nibbled. Like a dog worrying a bone, I ate apples to the core, sometimes discovering nothing but apple seeds in the palm of my hand along with the fibrous center hull, when I looked up from the page. Carrots were eaten down to the nubs. And oranges too. First, I sucked out some of the juice, then broke the orange into five or six sections, eating them one by one. Finally, I consumed the white inner rind too, one incisor-dig at a time, only the outer skin remaining.
Study – an all-consuming proposition . . .
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.
~ Sir Francis Bacon “Of Studies”
Did you study at home, at the library? Did you have chaos or quiet? Maybe you had a photographic memory and didn’t have to study much.
Were you a nibbler too? Inquiring minds want to know.
Coming next: Purple Passages with a Pop of Pink, March 2015 edition