Reading Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at How We Experience Intimate Spaces. He discusses our sensory perception of spaces typically associated with dwelling, retreat, protection, and being enveloped–nests, attics, shells, cellars, corners. How does the physical experience of being inside and outside of these places correlate with the emotions and memories we attach to them?
My favorite chapter so far is on nests. He tells of the devastation he feels when he finds an empty bird nest in his garden. He missed the action of its inhabitants–why had he not been there for the egg-hatching, the mother feeding her babies? The sadness he felt for having been absent from these familial occurrences intrigued him.
An abandoned nest is not only empty of warm breathing bodies, but at the time of its abandonment, it becomes vulnerable to our haunting it. I may come to an empty nest and imagine a perfect pink dove, perfect speckled eggs, a fairy tale far from anything natural. I perhaps imagine a brown cat tearing the head off of the mother, chomping the babies to pieces. Or the wind sending an egg torpedoing to the rock garden below. My imagination configures idealized versions of what probably happened.
What hole do these imagined realities try to fill in my psyche? Why so grandiose? Why did Bauchalard feel so distressed? We are grieving at having missed witnessing the phenomenon of a place being alive, and now we try to make up for it. Now, the nest is only a dead object, a hollow carcass of a place. I don’t know what to do with it. I want the object to have meaning again. In other words, I want to be emotionally invested.
I am emotionally invested in my bed. I assemble my bed in the morning, the bouquet of a thousand red, black and purple pillows rest on my evening refuge. My nest-making. All other beds to me are just that-beds, not my refuge. These other beds are dead objects to me because I do not exchange a somatic experience with them. i do not long for a bed I don’t know in the middle of a long day. The abandoned nest is now only a nest, not a home because the phenomenon, the imbedded performance, is over. If I abandoned my bed, it would be just that. A bed. Not my bed, just a bed.
The pink dove I imagine may not have existed, but it is my way to attach to the dead nest. To give it a sensible, though imagined, purpose. Without my experience of conjuring the pink dove, the nest would simply be a nest, not my nest.
How much more poetic is an object when it is yours?
How less poetic is simply a bed?