Steamy Shed

It’s unclear how useful the writing shed will be in summer. We turned on the AC in the house yesterday — the forecast now says high of 94, feels like 100. I am normally an avid proponent of keeping the windows and doors open (hooray for screens) and the fans going to provide a cross-breeze, but there comes a point where the whole family wilts and we concede defeat and turn on the AC. None of us can sleep when it’s too hot, so that’s the real breaking point.

Temperature regulation is a little complicated for me, as I’m hypothyroid, so my body doesn’t adapt all that well to temperature extremes. But I keep thinking of when we went to Sri Lanka in 1995, and I was miserable in the heat, and demanding to know how my mother survived it. And she just looked sort of bewildered and said, “It’s not so bad. Your body gets used to it. Drink some tea.” She and the aunties drank lots of hot tea; there was some sort of theory that it heated you up and then you sweat more and that cooled you down? Like your own personal swamp cooler.

There’s no AC in the shed — so far, we’ve only put in electricity. I could get a tiny swamp cooler for around $40, which was effective in my Salt Lake City apartment, where it was dry, but I’m not sure those work as well in the humidity of Chicago.

For right now, I have a fan, and I came out this morning (currently 85, feels like 95), leaving the cool of the house, a little shocked by the transition. But I’m sitting in the shed typing right now, and the fan may actually be enough. I’ve turned my chair to get out of the sun, and the fan is blasting right on me. (I actually stole this fan from another room in the house, and it will go back, but I have ordered a pretty fan for the shed, will be here soon.) And I’m drinking my tea (yes, Amma), though I’m not sweating yet. So far, so good.

Time to turn off Facebook and write a little.

 

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Shed & space

I came home from the event last night and spent an hour or so in the shed, writing a poem, reading a story. (Charlie Jane Anders, “As Good As New,” loved it…) These photos are a bit dark, sorry, but you can get some context for the shed at night, with our seating area by the garage. It’s hard to get a sense of scale, but I was really worried that the shed would dominate the backyard, and thankfully, I think we’ve managed to avoid that. It’ll recede even more when the flower bed is fully developed, I think. Give me a few years.

The monk’s cell concept has been ameliorated a bit by the desire for comfort while working. I was never going to be a monk anyway. You knew that. Love the wingback chair and ottoman (IKEA, surprisingly affordable), and the rug (Overstock, ditto).

I have a particular fondness for that end table, which I bought in Sri Lanka in 2005, on the trip I took with money from the sale of Bodies in Motion. The lattice base folds up, and I brought the whole thing back in my big suitcase; it’s wandered around my homes since then, but was languishing a bit in the basement recently. It’s much happier out here, I think.

There’s still a surprising amount of unclaimed space. I don’t think I’ll be using a desk here, though I could possibly fit a little one up against the back wall, with a narrow (or kneeling) chair. We’ll see if I feel the need.

The immediate plan is to bring a Levenger lap desk out here to use with the arms of the comfy chair, and then see what, if anything, I want in the extra space. Maybe a low bookshelf. Maybe a table for stacking drafts covered in critique scribbles. Maybe nothing.

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Shed: Exterior Paint

Shed: completed exterior paint job. We went with essentially the same colors as the house and garage, to give a unified effect, but taken a shade darker, because I was thinking of doing that the next time we paint the house, and I thought the shed could serve as a tester. I definitely think we’ll use this blue (Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy) for the body of the house, next time we paint. The purple trim is Deep Mulberry.

The most waffly decision was what to paint of the doors and windows. Normally, I would do the same thing on all of them, but the windows had beautiful wood that I didn’t want to paint over. The doors were white painted wood, and I could have stripped them for a unified look, which I think I would have liked a lot — but I couldn’t justify the additional cost. So I painted them in another of the house trim colors (Violet Stone), and I think I’m fine with the slight wonkiness of the mix-and-match. It’s a whimsical creation to begin with, after all, a garden folly.

I’ve trenched out what will be a bed of flowers eventually, though it’s going to take a while, given budget-all-spent-and-then-some. Next step, turning over that grass and covering it with mulch, and then I think I’m mostly going to slowly divide perennials from the front and bring them to the back. Check back in 3-4 years for a fully developed flower bed there. Imagine it with irises and peonies in the sunny bits, and woodland flowers in the shade.

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Shed Interior Paint

The shed was originally going to be 4’x8′, but when the contractors came out and started building, the guys asked if they could make it a little bigger, because they thought I’d feel too crowded in there. I said yes, so I don’t know what the final dimensions ended up as! But I think not much bigger, probably around 4.5’x8.5′. Given that, I didn’t want to drywall it, since that would make it feel smaller. I also liked the idea of it being a little rustic, unfinished, functional.

 

I asked our contractor if she could just paint the interior white, that I was aiming for something like a monk’s cell — a minimal space from which to contemplate the world. (I have loved Loreena McKennitt’s “Skellig” for a long time.) I think she delivered nicely. Paint color: Benjamin Moore’s Linen White.

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The Shed

The Shed

The shed is finished enough
to work in but has not yet
entirely revealed its purposes.

The shed is instead of entering the house
late at night, after an event,
is leaving the sleeping children in the care
of their sleeping father a little longer.

The shed is surrounded by apartment buildings,
is shielded somewhat by the grace of trees,
is both hidden and exposed.

The shed is an excellent place for reading
late at night, with wind rustling
through the leaves, music
turned low on a phone, not disturbing
neighbors passing in the alley.

The shed is for open doors and windows
and as much cross-breeze as possible
and probably also a fan, because let’s
be practical here. Eventually, we’ll
have to think about heat in winter.

The shed is not for playing solitary
video games. One was played
experimentally
on the phone, and the shed was
resentful. It wants to fulfill
its purpose.

The shed doesn’t know if it
will be better for writing novels than
the front porch, or office, or
living room, or basement. The shed
doesn’t know why I wander
from one to the other, restlessly,
endlessly. No one does.

The shed is a still point
in a turning, talking, asking,
needing, hurting world.

The shed is an impossible luxury,
but far cheaper than abandoning
my family and running away
to the ocean, or the woods.

The shed probably wouldn’t be here
if it weren’t for cancer, both ways.
Cancer flays you down
to the exhausted bone; cancer
whispers, don’t wait any longer.

The shed exists because the men
in my life didn’t understand
why I wanted so badly to build a shed
but helped build it anyway.

The shed does not want to be called
a she-shed, because that sounds
ridiculous, but acknowledges
that there may be a reason
for the moniker. There may be
a reason why women in this world
might build a shed.

The shed is a poem
that is trying not to need
to justify its place in the world.

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Shed Writing!



Writing in the shed a little today, even though it’s not painted yet, outside or in. The plan is to do the interior in white, with no drywall or insulation, at least for now. If I find myself actually using it as much as I hope, and if it seems like I’ll want to use it even in winter, I can add insulation at that point, and even add baseboard heat. (We laid conduit and did the electrical in such a way as to accommodate that possibility down the road.)

For right now, it’s honestly a little chilly in here; my fingers are cold, which isn’t good for typing, because it can make injury more likely, I’ve heard (something about tighter tendons?). But I couldn’t resist the urge to work in here a little, at least, esp. because we’ve turned over the house to an indie film crew for the weekend (a local African American woman doing a film about domestic violence; she asked on a local board if anyone had a house she could film in), so it is full of people bustling, doing make-up, shouting “Quiet on the set!” etc. Not conducive to writing.

It should warm up soon, but for now, I’ve closed off the doors that give me this view of the garden from the comfy chair. If I were going to stay out here for long, I’d be dragging out a space heater, but I’m planning to just write one more scene for my current Wild Cards story, and then go inside and see who’s up for watching Doctor Strange with me…

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Shedding

Shed work from a few days ago — shingling the roof (you just nail the shingles down; somehow I thought it was more complicated), adding the doors and windows.

Completed shed structure, still to have doorknobs, light fixtures, window latches, painting, etc. It’s close enough to done that I can actually work in it now (though maybe still a bit chilly today); the guys will be back next week to finish it off.

I briefly thought about leaving it unpainted and letting the wood weather, but instead, we’re going to paint the body a dark shade of blue, to coordinate with the house and garage, hopefully unifying it all nicely. (It’s also letting me test out the color I’m planning to repaint the house to, when it’s time to repaint, Benjamin Moore’s _Old Navy_.)

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Writing Shed

Writing shed. Eep. It will be tiny and free of distractions. So far:

– measured out space and stuck poles in the ground with string around it to get a sense of it
– found free shed plans on internet and sent to contractors
– went to Re-Use Depot and found some old windows and French doors (cheaper, adds character, recycling is good)
– trench dug in yard for conduit for electric and possible heat to be added later if I end up wanting to actual trek across a snowy yard to use this in winter
– four holes dug and cement filled for footings
– framing built for flooring, groundcloth laid down to block weeds, covered in gravel — contractors pointed out that I could hide things in the base if I wanted. When I said that it wasn’t enough room to bury the bodies, they said, “We have a Sawzall.”
– trench filled in (nobody fell in, yay!)

More soon!

 
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