Over the twelve years that we have lived in our house, my home office has at one time or another occupied three out of four bedrooms. For years I had one front bedroom to myself for books, computer, and casual writing. Then my husband and I decided to share a home office and shuffle the guest room to my prior space. Then, last fall, when my husband’s job led him to start working from home more often, I moved into my current (and final) home office. This is where I write for a living.
At the back of the house, this room-of-windows overlooks our backyard – a mature pine tree and garden are the scene of entertaining squirrel and bird activity. This is better than facing the street and the traffic of Garbage Day three times a week (due to three pickup companies).
But facing the backyard presents its own challenges, as does having a home office in general.
My two closest “co-workers” are my dog and cat. My cat Elsa is like that co-worker whose sole function is to annoy. Only consistent “removal” has convinced her to stay off of my lap/desk/keyboard/mouse while I am working. And her mixed howl-meow coming from other parts of the house usually signals that she will soon be barfing, unless I can call out to her and talk her out of it. This is especially great when I’m on the telephone with a client.
Which brings us to my dog, Valentina, who 99% of the time is asleep somewhere. Unless she is awake and suddenly decided that a treat/her dinner/going outside is a life or death matter. Cue the whining.
“Is that your baby?” “Um, no, that’s my dog.” “Is she okay…?”
Doggie whines, though, are preferred over screeching squirrel disagreements three feet outside my window. Any day.
Before I transitioned to full time freelance, I worked in an office park, a cubicle farm, an art deco downtown office building, and even in a little converted rural cottage. All of these places were climate controlled and strictly business surroundings.
Street traffic noises might waft up several floors, but in none of those settings did I contend with daily lawnmowers, weed-whackers, leaf blowers, snowplows or the whine of child-sized motorized vehicles.
It’s true that this is only an issue now that I can open the windows – and there in itself is little cause for complaint. Right now I hear the gentle rustle of pine branches-on-breeze and the chirps of several species of birds.
Machines are white-noise distractions that I can tune out or camouflage with music. But there are a few made-made sounds that don’t blend well with writing.
Moving my home office to the back corner of the house means my windows overlook the backyards of two neighbors. In a neighborhood of city lot-sized yards, and houses separated by only 10-15 feet, we are lucky that these neighbors are *very good neighbors.*
Really, they are. So good, that I can gauge the time of day by their activities.
Two houses over lives really great neighbors and their boys, one son a late-night-employed twenty-something. He gets up just before lunchtime, takes their dogs out back, then runs through his morning workout of bouncing a tennis ball against their garage door.
Plunk. (Must be about 11:30.)
Immediately next door are three elementary school-aged siblings who are really fairly quiet. Release from the school bus at the end of the school day, however, is a time for celebration, and sometimes the resumption of breakfast-time squabbles. I get it, I remember my own after school elation, and then I silently note to myself that it must be about 3 o’clock.
In My Natural State
Rather than running outside and demanding quiet while disguised as the local wild-haired writer/recluse, I remember that I am getting to do exactly what I want to do – what I’ve always wanted to do – and how I want to do it.
In a very lucid way I love the screeching squirrels, shrill weed whackers and tennis ball plunks.
These are the sounds of my home office, and where I’m supposed to be, in this writing life.