Cynthia’s Desk

Image credit: Jody Alyn ©2021

“While you’re here,” Cynthia said as she showed me through the house where I’d be living for the next three and a half weeks as official pet-sitter, “feel free to use the office, also known as the art room.”

Their house was built the year before I was born. Seems like that was about 35 years ago; stunningly, it’s close to 70. Cynthia led me into what had been the front bedroom. My hiking boots percussed across the hardwood floor more loudly than I intended.

Rolled yoga mats stood in the corner next to a floor lamp and square-backed reading chair. White shelves of books and art rose on either side of a tall white cabinet. Cynthia opened the doors to reveal more shelves full of art paraphernalia: paints, fabric scraps, glues, papers, yarns and the collected other what-nots of an acute creative.

“Use whatever you like,” she said. “I cleaned off my desk for you, too.”

She gestured toward a large, wooden door that lay across two metal file cabinets. Hand-painted on its surface in bold black letters was “the door to my creativity.” I took brief note of myriad containers of pens, markers, inks, notes, papers, crayons and other art supplies semicircling the edges of the cleared work surface. Too many to register. A collection of personal inspirations lined the walls above and around this desk.

“The pets aren’t allowed in here for obvious reasons,” Cynthia said with a smile as she scooted their elegant, entitled and eternally mischievous gray cat, Daphne, away from a box of ribbons and into the hallway. “Keep the door closed. And, really, use anything you like.”

Gobsmacked by her generosity, I said, “I brought a few art supplies with me. They’ve been in the closet for years.” I didn’t say how many closets in how many houses through how many moves and how many decades. Or whether I would be so open with someone I just met. I knew I would not.

After Cynthia and Greg left on their road trip, I sat down at the desk. The chair fit perfectly. My feet were grounded. My back was straight. I took a breath and felt … spaciousness. An incredible spaciousness. The thing I associate with meditation on the best days. So big it was almost physical.

I set my own colored pencils on the desk next to my journal. Without warning, my chest constricted in ancient shames and osmotic judgments. What am I doing here? How will I ever explain myself?

I took a deep breath. Opened my journal. Stared at it. Raised my eyes.

Facing me, posted at eye level on the wall, were these handwritten words:

1. This is awesome.
2. This is tricky.
3. This is shit.
4. I am shit.
5. This might be ok.
6. This is awesome.

I took a colored marker in my hand and drew an erratic, oddly graceful, purple line across the page. I did another with a turquoise marker over the purple. Then lime green. There was no matching, no coordination, no rhyme or reason to the lines. They simply overlay one another and danced with abandon across the page. That was it.

I started writing.

The next time I sat down at the desk that is a door, I noticed more pens and brushes in a ceramic cup by a Colorado artist I knew. A small tempting notebook, pages splayed just enough to reveal colors and words. A bowl of miscellaneous things with a gratitude list and a note that maybe said lunches or brunches or lurches. A rich blue and black ceramic plate on which abstract faces seemed to urge “Design! Play! Life depends on it!” My Prismacolor pencils asked, “How many more closets? How long will you wait?”

The desk was a magnificent mess of exploration, inspiration, acceptance, trial, error, freedom. It was, itself, a work of art and soul. It said: there are no mistakes, no judgments here.

I vowed to make this space from now on, always, wherever I go.

Weeks later, sitting at Cynthia’s desk just before time to leave, I saw a photo on the wall that had not caught my eye before. I stood up, looked more closely and saw small print with a quote from poet Deborah Keenan. It said:

“This path, this road, is one perfect straight line even if it goes around the world through heat and fog and rain and snow and it’s my life. I keep thinking. It’s my life.”

And this is mine.




Inclusion strategist. Former therapist. Focus on social identity, implicit bias & media. Justice advocate. Introvert. Empath. Friend. Mom. Writes on all of it.

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Jody Alyn

Jody Alyn

Inclusion strategist. Former therapist. Focus on social identity, implicit bias & media. Justice advocate. Introvert. Empath. Friend. Mom. Writes on all of it.

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