Journey Around My Rooms

In 1980, when I was living in New York and writing my book Somewhere Child for Viking Press, my editor, Amanda Vaill, sometimes gave me newly published Viking books to inspire me and keep me going on my lonely writer’s journey.

These books, I thought then and still think now, were like logs for the fire inside of me, to keep the flames burning bright. Book writers need to read good books as much as, if not more than, they need to eat good food, Amanda felt then. And I still do.

One of the books she gave me, I recall clearly now, was the autobiography of American lyric poet and literary critic Louise Bogan, Journey Around My Room (Viking Press, 1980). My first thought, on receiving this book and reading its title – not knowing who Louise Bogan was — was that the journey around my own room at the time would take only a minute. I was living in a one-room studio apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and that’s where I spent every day but Sunday for the next year agonizingly writing my first book, thanks to a generous advance from Viking.

Journey Around My Room is a mosaic of Bogan’s life (she lived from 1897 to 1970) made of bits and pieces of her notebook and journal entries, parts of letters, stories, criticism, poems, and the text of a lecture, all put together posthumously by her editor Ruth Limmer. The book’s title is drawn from a 1933 piece Bogan wrote for the New Yorker in which she describes her room – the setting and the articles that fill it – and then associates ideas, places, and people she knows with them.

I’ve been thinking about this Bogan book a lot lately because, apart from daily walks into town, my longest journeys lately have been within my new apartment’s four sunny and airy rooms. All this nesting in the past month has turned me into an überhomebody, and I’m loving it. To think — after all these years of international travel and personal upheaval I’ve finally landed in one sweet and secure (I feel) place, with all of my most cherished things under one sturdy roof, along with me! Out of storage and back into my life. I could get down on my knees and kiss the terra cotta tile floors here in gratitude.

A journey around this apartment’s rooms should only take a few minutes, if you’d care to join me…

Here in the living room area, on one of its high walls, I’ve hung a long, narrow wall quilt I made in the classic Chinese-coin design from scraps of African fabric I brought back with me from Mali, West Africa, where I taught patchwork quilting as an economic development project. This quilt is a daily reminder to me of that deeply enriching (for me) project and the marvelous Malian women I worked with.

Also in the living room area, there’s a small bookcase — in an effort to travel light, I had to give away most of the hundreds of books in my personal library before leaving Taos, New Mexico, for San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, eight years ago — with my two beautiful grandchildren’s wedding photos on it and copies of my books on part of the top shelf:

Oddly enough, one of my most prized – and sentimental – possessions in my lovely new kitchen (apart from the French tart pans in all sizes, saved from my catering days in New York) is the made-in-Spain Magefesa pressure cooker I bought in Mali’s capital, Bamako, in 1998 for the equivalent of $80 USD, an exorbitant sum for me then. Fresh meat in Mali, I found in the three years I lived there, required long pressure cooking to reach any degree of tenderness; otherwise, I found it inedible. So this extravagance became a life saver, which I still rely on for making stocks and stews to this day:

My new bedroom has an African theme, with a goat skin rug on the floor, a live potted palm in one sunny corner, and Malian mud cloth textile art on the walls. This mud cloth piece (below),  which I recently had framed, is especially dear to me because it was a farewell gift from the Malian artist, named Dembele, who gave it to me. It signifies for me the joie de vivre I observed and experienced in Mali, despite the year-round punishing heat and pervasive Saharan dust.

Every morning now on my coffee tray, which I take back to bed with me, I use a mug that one of my sisters once gave me, with a photo of our young mother, Lee, on it. So I feel I’m having coffee with Lee in my new apartment. I imagine that she loves watching the view of dawn from my bedroom windows as much as I do. I imagine she’s pleased for me that I am here now and happy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For more information about my first book, the memoir Somewhere Child, and my Patchwork Project in Mali, please scroll through the Home page of my website,

For more about giving away my beloved books before moving to Mexico in 2015, please read .


30 thoughts on “Journey Around My Rooms”

  1. I always enjoy reading your posts, dear Bonnie. Thinking of you and your many contributions. Marge

    1. Thank you, dearest Marge. I always love hearing from you. I hope you and George are doing well. BTW, your book is here on the little blue bookcase in my living room. — Love, BB xx

  2. This is lovely, Bonnie. It expresses one of the reasons I wanted to live in a real house again….a place where the things around me are expressions of people and ideas that are important to me.

  3. You have paired down to the most essential life affirming and beautifully meaningful artifacts of your personal journey on this planet. WOW (literally and figuratively). Very inspiring post.

  4. Bonnie, so enjoyed this post and your book post. I had flashbacks of hiding in my closet too, nightly read books—even though my parents thought I was asleep. And giving hundred of books to Pathways for Change, which is a boot camp like experience for men instead of prison. Cherish the memory, internalize the message, and repurpose the treasure. Bravo!

  5. Although I do not comment nearly enough, I love reading your posts Bonnie and memories bring me back to just how many years I’ve known you. I regret we didn’t get to speak at our last reunion. I so enjoy your posts…..I’m so glad you’re happy there and feel safe and ‘home’. Life certainly has its twists and turns. I love the picture of your Mom. Take care….Pam

  6. I enjoyed the short tour of memory items in your new home; however, your photos don’t capture the light, the color, the peace and happiness you have created there.

  7. Bonnie,
    Before it became acceptable for people to visit my profession in an office, it was expected that a person would discuss their financial goals and assets within the comfort of their home, where both spouses were present. I learnt a lot about the people I was about to talk to just by glancing around their furnishings, photos and keepsakes, within their living room. The things you display, make a profound statement of the important times of your life and the people who also touch your heart. I wonder if you display any of your own personal artwork? Your wall quilt is beautiful! What a creative work!
    After reading your piece, I walked around my home, trying to look at it with the eyes of a stranger. It was very hard to do. Certain pieces are weighed down with so much emotion and history. But that’s what makes a home for the person living in it, don’t you think?

    1. Yes, dear Loula, I think so too. The small, cherished belongings and keepsakes that surround us in our homes help to tell our life stories. And, yes, little by little I’m showing my own amateurish watercolor pieces here on my walls — a small painting of sunflowers in the kitchen, and a series of four small paintings of tiny fish in the ocean in the bathroom. If I knew how, I’d attach photos of them here, but I can’t seem to see how to do that. 🙂

      1. It depends on whether you are downloading photos from a digital camera or a smart phone. With a camera you need a cable. With the phone, you email it to your computer. Ask your visitors if they know how. Maybe someone can kindly show you what to do. I’m sure we’d all love to see your watercolours.

  8. This speaks to the well deserved comfort and security you are feeling in your new home. Looking forward to tea and a tart today. After all it’s Tuesday!

    1. Thanks so much, dear Suzanne. Yes, in fact, I’d better start baking that tart right now! (It’ll be a lemon tart, everybody’s fave.) — Hasta pronto, BB xx

  9. Dear Bon,
    There is nothing that could make me happier than hearing how contented and peaceful you feel in your new home. It is a dream come true and exactly what your friends wish for you. How beautiful and serene your mom looks on your mug. I know she is watching over you. I am so delighted for you
    The Louise Bogan book sounds interesting. I’ve heard of her but not read anything by her. And that is the most formidable pressure cooker I have ever seen.

    1. You’re so right, dearest Paul, it really is a dream come true. Just a few minutes ago there was a rainbow — an entire half circle of a rainbow covering the sky outside of my terrace. I’ve never seen such a sight. It was like something in a dream. I took a short video of it, but I don’t know how to attach it to this Comment. Wish you were here. — BB xx

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