Where I Write: Fiona Cohen

| Category: About Sasquatch | Children's Books | Nature/Outdoors
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For this series our authors take us behind the scenes to show us what their work spaces look like. Here is Fiona Cohen, author of the new Curious Kids Nature Guide from Little Bigfoot.

My desk is in a nook off the master bedroom. I knew as soon as I saw the space that I wanted to make it my own private retreat within the house. A place to go and think and work.  The desk itself is made of alder by Don Willis furniture—a beloved Ballard business. The monitor and keyboard stay there all the time. The laptop computer they are connected to is only here when I am. Otherwise it’s a shared computer in a shared living space.

The room is in a corner of the house and there are two windows, each with rather utilitarian views of my rather utilitarian yard. The one to the west overlooks a cistern, a clothesline, and two grape vines snaking along a fence. A couple of years ago we attached a nest box to that fence, with a hole measuring an inch and an eighth in diameter, just right for chickadees, but so far I have no feathered neighbors.

From the same window I also have a view of our garden shed, which is painted a merry shade of pale green. My explanation is that I went paint shopping with my then eight-year-old daughter.

The main window faces north. In the eaves next to it I have a bird feeder a friend made me out of a china teacup and saucer. It’s a good feeder, attracting scrub-jays, flickers, chickadees, and house finches, among others, and it reminds me of a Magritte painting.

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Outside the north window I can see the shed and two of the five apple trees on the property, planted by a previous owner.

Sometimes I get a welcome distraction. The pair of scrub-jays who haunt our property might have a noisy meeting with a pair of Steller’s jays. Once a possum sauntered across the back yard.

Next to the window is a calendar depicting scenes from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, where my parents spend their summers. The May picture has a green farm with grazing sheep (sheep often figure prominently). On the east wall I have a bulletin board with a map of the property made by the people who planted the fruit trees, seeds I plan to plant later this year, and old labels from tomato varieties I aim to plant this summer (Jaune Flamme and Striped Roman). Tickets for plays or concerts and a photocopied picture of my father rowing stroke in his college’s eight. Then, moving around, there’s the doors to the bathroom and the bedroom, and a silver bookcase stuffed with science books, field guides, hiking guides, gardening guides, and other miscellaneous reference books (Bullfinch’s Mythology, Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist).

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I’m quite attached to my field guide collection. Some are well thumbed (The Sibley Field Guide to Birds). Others are there just in case (Opossoms Shrews and Moles of British Columbia by David W. Nagorsen). Some of the books are gifts from people who know me well, while others I picked up at used book stores. A few of the older titles ( such as Common Seaweeds of the Pacific Coast by J. Robert Waaland) are stamped “Property of Seattle Post-Intelligencer Library.”  My husband was a reporter and I was a freelancer at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer when it went from being a print paper to a website.  Before they gave away the books in their library, we took a few.

There is only one outright disadvantage to the space—it has poor insulation and single pane windows, so it can be chilly in winter. I cover the windows with plastic, wear sweaters and wooly socks. The other disadvantage is also an advantage: its isolation. The remoteness of the room extends to the point of having bad cell-phone service. To make a voice call, I have to walk into the living room.

I like this cluttered corner. It’s a good place to go to compose, to think, to plan, to answer questions, or edit text or photos. I should spend more time there than I do.

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