A Room of one’s Own (with special thank you to virginia woolf)

When I was about nine years old I wanted a room of my own, tired of sharing a bedroom with one of my older sisters (five children, three bedrooms, my oldest sister, Anne, usually had her own room). There wasn’t a space IN the house so I decided to create a room in our garage, a stand-alone structure that had room for one car, a work bench, a freezer, and at times, a chicken coop with hens. Unheated, uninsulated, leaky windows, a door that wouldn’t lock, I decided that it would work. I swept a small squarish space, made some curtains, colored a box for a dresser, and rolled out a sleeping bag over an old air mattress. My parents left me to my own devices (probably realizing what the outcome of this endeavor would be). After one partial night in the drafty garage room, I returned to my twin bed in the room I shared with Janet–in the house. The dream stayed with me, though: Virginia Woolf wasn’t the only person who wanted a room of her own!

This move from Asheville to Chapel Hill has been tough. I had expected to have my piano at the apartment (playing was going well before we moved) but the managers said “no,” so I bought an electronic keyboard but it never felt or sounded right. The housing market was dismal so we rented an apartment for an indeterminate period of time. Usually when we move to a new location I’ve been able to find a women’s giving circle to join as a way to meet engaged women and to learn about the area’s non-profit environment. The Triangle has a few giving circles but none with the vitality of the organizations with which I was involved in Austin, Sonoma, Boulder, and Asheville. Similarly, there have been foster child advocacy organizations (near and dear to my heart from my first exposure in Auburn, California in 2006) in most of our recent locations; the guardian ad litem system is different in North Carolina. Again, a familiar landing spot was missing. Feeling displaced is the only way to describe this period.

Fortunately, the light of the past five months has begun to brighten. I am talking to a local non-profit organization that provides fresh foods to food insecure children in the area about joining their board of directors; we finally took possession of our house last weekend (although we won’t move in for a few more weeks so some deferred maintenance can be done); and best of all, my piano arrived on Tuesday from storage.

Walk way to piano studio

Unfortunately (or not), when we measured the living room of the new house, the piano did not fit easily. So after some musings and considering the limited options available, I thought–the ma’am shed! A new concept to me, the ma’am shed (or she shed) is a heated and cooled (and some, like this one, with exotic wallpaper) small out-building on the property. Why not a music studio, like at music camps, where practice rooms are placed throughout the property for musicians to use at their discretion. After some hesitancy, Doug agreed. And thus, a room of my own was born, finally, many many years after the garage bedroom fiasco.

I like to play the piano in solitude, no audience, no schedule, mistakes will be made! The studio will be perfect, small, lots of natural light, quiet, surrounded by birds, squirrels, flowers, fig trees, roses, blueberry bushes, a magical setting. The piano’s rich tone, its resonance, its song, have their place here. As I played the first notes of a Schubert Improvisation after the piano was brought into the studio, I smiled, yes, this is what was missing, more viscerally than I had first thought when I learned it had to stay in storage. I didn’t have this touchstone that brings me such joy, even with a stiff right hand and not enough practice, the glorious music that fills the soul brought me back to myself.

.📷 Inside the studio, Schimmel 6′ grand, ready for my lessons with dear talented Rose

May be an image of piano




1 thought on “A Room of one’s Own (with special thank you to virginia woolf)”

  1. Lovely how this piece wove together!! Can’t wait to see your studio, Pat! And so glad you’ve come home to your own private space. It does matter.
    XOX, Janet


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