The Bewitching HourPosted: December 28, 2010
It’s 5am and I lay on my bedroom floor puffing on trees and stretching. I’m restless and exhausted, but this is when I do my best work. I don’t know if it’s the witchiness in me, but since I was young (really young) the late night or early morning twilight through my bedroom windows filled me with a sense of urgency to create. I think it’s the time and my room, which I always feel should be my own inspirational cave.
When I enter my room I enter a world that is safe; that is in my control; that excites me; and that ultimately is an expression of me. I hate plain white walls. As soon as I was old enough to start developing a personal aesthetic (around 7) I immediately regurgitated it on my bedroom walls. I think it is important for young women, and women in general, to have their own space; a room that reflects who they are and their experiences. The importance of autonomous space for women isn’t a new concept though; Virginia Woolf’s famous essay A Room of One’s Own is often cited as a groundbreaking piece for its encouragement of women writers having their own space to create. Who isn’t given much attention is Gertrude Bustill Mossell, who was a journalist and Black feminist who constantly championed the achievements and often omitted history of Black women. Her essay “A Lofty Study” pushed the importance of women writers to have their own room, and it was published before the publication of Woolf’s piece, yet Woolf gets all the credit for the ideas. In the piece Mossell is also commenting on patriarchy within the home. She writes,
“Even when there is a library in the home, it is used by the whole family, and if the husband is literary in his tastes, he often desires to occupy it exclusively at the very time you have leisure, perhaps. Men are so often educated to work alone that even sympathetic companionship annoys. Very selfish, we say, but we often find it so–and therefore the necessity of a study of one’s own.” (italics added)
Having my own bedroom helped me stay grounded and sane reassured that as chaotic and unstable as things could get outside those walls, when I entered my little cave there was a strong sense of self reflected all around me. Some kind of reaffirmation of my creativity and consciousness; and also who I was and who I was striving to be. Striving is an accurate word to describe my obsession with leaving a mark on this world. For some reason at the ripe age of 6 I begin to develop a strong desire to make some sort of impact; I wanted some sort of fame or recognition in history. Not in a celebrity, spectacle kind of way, but I wanted to influence people.
I think it all started with my early fascination with my great-grandfather, Daddy Herman, who I never knew but have always felt strangely connected to. He was a well-known jazz alto saxophonist in Kansas City, and also an influence of Charlie Parker. There is a great book documenting Kansas City Jazz scene in the 1930’s that has pictures and interviews with my grandfather in it, which I plan to write about in another piece. The Book is called Goin’ to Kansas City by Nathan W. Pearson, Jr. I was always so impressed by my Daddy Herman’s life; his small fame; his abilities to have success and make a living off of his creativity. I imagined he was a wild spirit like me and I took comfort in that connection. I would wear his fedoras and bowler hats that my father inherited, and sit in my cardboard fortress pretending I was in another place during another lifetime. These were also my first experiments with different gender expressions and the beginnings of a love affair with vintage fashion. This vignette is somewhat tangential to the ideas of autonomous spaces and creativity. But it is connected in the sense that my Daddy Herman was an early influence on me to create, and my bedroom was an important aspect of that creation process. He left a mark on me that, combined with my general interests in Black freedom fighters and artists made me yearn to be a part of that tradition and to shape history in some way. I think I jumped the gun a bit though when I sat down at my desk at the age of 9 and began to write my memoir. I wrote about a page and realized I still had some living to do.
I still do…16 years have gone by and I am still, as they say, trying to figure it all out. Many things have changed and at the same time nothing at all. I have made mistakes, gotten my heart broken a few times, broke some myself, made friends, lost friends, and have managed to work on this Taurian stubbornness to fit in time to reflect, grow and transform. Objective conditions change, but aspects of my subjectivity remain the same. It’s late and I am by myself relishing the solitude and creative freedom. I lay within these christmas light tinted walls covered with art, politics, textiles, records, photos, books, and lots and lots of colors. I feel a strange sense of familiarity and home that I carry within myself and from bedroom to bedroom in each house I settle into. And there’s nothing like some rainfall and early morning moon light to make a woman feel at home.