This winter we plan to switch around the two rooms in the upstairs part of our farmhouse. We’re going to move the bedroom into the small back room, and turn the larger room into my office. One of the things I plan to do is paint the walls pale yellow. Then I’m going to write on them.
The original “writing on the wall” can be found in the book of Daniel, 5:25. It said “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” and while I’m not sure of the word-for-word translation, I think “You’re in very deep shit” would probably cover it. Maybe I got that from my mother’s reaction when I wrote on her wall.
There’s something tempting about writing on the wall. It has a publicity that writing on a page doesn’t have, and a permanence greater than the ephemeral fame of a Facebook wall. You can toss those scribbled pages, or hide them in a book at the back of a shelf, but purple Sharpie Marker on Robin’s Egg Blue Matte can’t be so easily disguised.
In Terri Windling’s book “The Wood Wife”, the main character inherits the house of a poet she admired and corresponded with. The walls of the poet’s study are covered with writing. When I read that, I knew I wanted to do the same someday, if I ever had a workspace of my own where it was possible.
Last year I actually bought different-coloured markers and made a start. Over my computer is something Lucinda Kempe wrote me when I was going through a hard time. “Life is tough, E. But it’s tougher for those poor souls who have no passion, yes?” Yes. And that encourages me, and helps me remember that I have something precious and wonderful in the ability to make art.
So when, in the indoor-work time of winter, we begin to shift the rooms around, I’m choosing a paint that will take and hold marks, and assembling some of my favourite quotations. Some of them are Piet Hein’s grooks. Some of them are words of wisdom from well-known people. Some of them are encouragement from friends.
Maybe one of the last barriers in writing is writing somewhere that convention says you shouldn’t – on skin, on clothing, on walls or furniture. Perhaps that’s what makes writing on the wall so attractive to me – that and the almost universal human wish to leave a mark.
If you should happen to visit my home after we’ve switched those rooms around, and if you should happen to feel the urge to leave some bon mot or witticism or insight on my wall, I’ll point you to the Sharpie markers and a blank space and leave you to it.
You won’t be in even very shallow shit.