There was room for a single bed, an apple-box bedside stand, and a small desk with an old-fashioned brass goose-necked lamp. A small birdcage hung from a black wrought-iron stand, home to my beloved green parakeet, Keeto. Three walls were glass: No room for pictures. Double-paned windows in winter; screens for the seemingly way-too-short summer. I thought it hardly worth the labor, taking down the storm windows (washing them was my job) and replacing them with screens.
On mornings when neither rain nor snow pelted the east windows, Old Sol shot its warm rays through Venetian blinds, cozying up the space. Southward, a great expanse of green velvet rambled down to the churning whirlpools of the Red River. Whirlpools in summer, six feet of solid ice in winter. The ice’s break up in the spring probably fascinated me most. Lying in bed I could hear the cracking and crashing, as the huge pieces pummeled against each other.
Northward, wooded hills stretched toward Hudson Bay where I was certain couriers de bois still silently patrolled its lonely shores. Wrapped warmly in a comforter (hot chocolate leaving its ring on the tiny glass-topped desk), I often enjoyed a private viewing of the sunset playing itself out against the clouds or the ballet of colorful autumn leaves. In fall I might even take off on a virtual flight with the Canadian Geese.
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And the West. No windows faced west, but that did not hinder my imagination. Something about the West called to me. I sensed that my place was somewhere out West, the land I had so often read about in stories and books. A place where uniqueness was valued, differences minimized. (It took several decades for me to reach the West—literally.)
And then our family moved to a new home, thousands of miles away in another country. The room of my own vanished with the miles.
Initially, like a fish out of water in the new environment (my brain’s opinion), I felt discouraged, devastated, even depressed. One evening, after a particularly harrowing day (again, my brain’s opinion), for the first time I went back in memory to my Camelot-landing. In an attempt to forget the present, I pulled up in my mind’s eye every detail. And in doing so, more details popped into my memory until it seemed as if I were once more actually there.
Those few minutes changed my life: Such an experience taught my brain it could create a virtual room in my mind at any time and in any place. A room of my own that could and would go with me no matter where I roamed on the planet.
“I get it,” said Nels. “A virtual room.”
“That’s doable,” said Neil. “Instead of staying up late waiting for some peace and quiet, I can just go to bed and be in my virtual room.”
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“That would only work in my house if I wore earplugs,” said Anita, voicing a common male-female difference. (Males often focus more effectively when there is some distraction in the environment; females often do better in a quiet environment.)