About the Author

Marie is an instructor of English at Sacred Heart University and recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Fairfield University. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children and her faithful English Springer Spaniel, "the artful" Dodger.
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Spread the Word


 The world is charged with the grandeur of God

- Gerard Manley Hopkins

I am looking for a new flat in London; the lease is up on my current one. Having visited Hampstead Heath so many times during the past few months, walking its many wild and beautiful acres, I naturally seek out a place nearby to settle down.  The village of Highgate, nestled on its north side, had charmed me from my first encounter many months ago.

I have wondered, at times, during the course of my year in London, how one who always thrived on surrounding herself with treasured mementos, familiar art, favorite pieces of antique furniture, comforting old linens, and shelves and shelves of cherished books, could  possibly find happiness living in someone else’s flat? I’ve always saved much too much of my past in boxes, closets and other people’s attics, so why does moving from flat to flat with little more than a couple of suitcases of clothes, books and a few personal treasures feel so good?  It must have something to do with the feeling of liberation that comes from realizing that everything we truly need we can’t store away or pack up and move from place to place; we carry it with us. In any case, against all typecasting by someone who knows me and my penchant for sentimental hoarding, I’ve been quite happy wherever I’ve landed in London with little more than myself.   

When I arrive to look at Flat 2, Fitzroy Lodge, The Grove, I am immediately taken with the color of the master bedroom. It is the happiest shade of yellow – a daffodil yellow - and it will forever be my standard bearer for what a master bedroom should be. Although far from large, it has a window overlooking the attractive Georgian row houses across the road, and, very pretty yellow and white striped curtains and bedding.  I feel that no matter what the English weather has on offer, this room would be flushed in a warm glow. The furnishings are simple, yet elegant and inviting. There is an antique glass fronted secretary in the corner where I envision writing long letters home and lengthy entries in my diary. I can see my set of Virginia Woolfe, carried lovingly across the Atlantic, sitting contentedly on its now empty shelves. There is a space for the inkwell I purchased at a flea market on the left bank in Paris last month. I mentally create a world for myself here, put myself and my few possessions in its appealing space, and in that instance I know I am sold on living here.

            “I’ll take it”, I shout to the estate agent who has already moved on to the next room.

            “You haven’t even seen the whole flat”, she shouts back through the wall from the second bedroom, as if disappointed that she didn’t have to sell me on the beautiful balcony stretching out beyond the French doors at the far end of the living room.

            “I know, but if the rest of the flat is anything like this room, I’ll love it” I shout back from my vantage point gazing out from the second floor window to the charming walled garden of the flat below. What is it about walled gardens that are so appealing? On one side of the wall, the city provides a backdrop of sound – sometimes the muted conversations of passerby’s, sometimes the raucous rumble of engines or honking of horns, ever changing – to the visual and sensual beauty of the other side which, itself, changes with the season and light of day. Together, each side of the wall provides something to the other and creates a unique space that marries the disparate sensibilities of country and city. I remember back to my own walled garden behind my ground floor apartment on Remsen Street in Brooklyn. It was a refuge from the harsh urban landscape of steel and concrete where I retreated at the end of the day to be with myself and the varied textures, colors and smells of its perennials and herbs. It was never lonely; the street sounds assured me that, even in my solitude, I was part of a neighborhood and a vibrant community just a closed gate away waiting to welcome me back after I had refreshed my soul. I need both.

It is January and the landscape of the garden below – its white wrought iron table and chairs, the empty terracotta pots scattered throughout, the rocks surrounding barren beds – appears ready, as I am, to welcome the abundance of what is yet to present itself. Whatever lies dormant within the cold winter ground, unseen but yet present, will make itself known in a few short months. I wonder what still lies within me to be cultivated and made known?  I look forward to experiencing both.

            “Brilliant. I’ll draw up the papers”, the estate agent calls to me. “You can move in at the beginning of next month if you’d like. The owner doesn’t live here anymore. She lives down the street. She's the wife of a famous English rocker, you know,” she adds, with just a hint of that famous British nonchalance...(continued)