Creative Spaces — Guest Post by Jimin Han

Creative Spaces

Glass Room

I remember the starkness of the walls in a new house, the sounds of night those first days in a new place. I remember being afraid of what I couldn’t see in the dark and worried about what I would see the next morning in the faces of the new people I would meet. I had my parents, my brothers, an aunt and uncle and cousins who lived with us from time to time and whom we lived with at other times, a grandfather, my father’s friends from Korea. They came and went in various configurations, my aunt and uncle and cousins being the most constant even after they moved permanently away because I would visit them during summers. My most vivid memories are of mornings when I’d wake to the smell of ramen cooking in the kitchen. This is from the early Jamestown period, when it was my brothers, my parents and I. We had a kitchen box, a square brown box marked clearly in large hangul: kitchen. It didn’t go with the moving truck. It was packed in the car with us alongside the other marked box that contained our bedding. The kitchen box had five bowls (one for each of us), one large stainless steel pot, chopsticks and spoons. It would take me a while, those first mornings when I initially opened my eyes to remember where I was, and then I’d find my way to the kitchen where my mother commandeered the stove, the sink, the cupboards, the windows. The kitchen table was set with bowls and chopsticks, ramen waiting for us. I remember she filled the kitchen with her optimism, her hopefulness. It was hard not to believe that we hadn’t always lived there.

I can count most of them, all the places I lived before I left my family for college. My uncle’s house in Seoul, my grandmother’s house in Seoul, a house in Daejun, another house in Seoul, an apartment in Brooklyn, a mental hospital in Providence, a house in Providence, a second floor apartment in Providence, an apartment in Dayton, a house in Jamestown (Myrtle Street), another house in Jamestown (East Virginia Boulevard), another house in Jamestown (Maple Street), another house in Jamestown (Camp Street), a last house in Jamestown (Whitehill Avenue). My parents were always moving. They continued to move after I left for college. Some of the moves necessitated by finances, some of the moves necessitated by a quest my father had that I didn’t understand.

Years older now, old enough to make my own home, I have my own house. My children have known this same house for most of their young lives. I’ve chosen steadiness where I can, rooted myself to a single house, a permanent address. But something lingers from my moving days. I write in a small temporary room that’s mostly empty. I call it anyone’s room. The walls are blank. There is a bed in case someone comes to visit. In a pinch I can clear out, let a guest feel at home. The desk is a polished teak ellipse. It’s large enough for my laptop and a few notebooks. It faces a blank, white wall away from the casement window that looks out into a yard where a crab apple tree loads up with blossoms in the spring and beyond that a neighbor’s pasture where a horse grazes.

Creative Spaces Guest Post by Jimin Han

After a life of moving, Jimin Han finally has a permanent “temporary” writing space.

When the writing isn’t going well, when I feel I’m failing, when the silence is paralyzing, I worry. I imagine crowding this room with things from my life for encouragement. A small painted rock the size of my hand, a quartz donkey figurine, a pale blue 19th century pill box, books that line the family room outside this room, paintings, photos of my children, my husband, my parents, my friends, my students, life that calls and calls to me. When the writing isn’t going well, I open the second door in my anyone’s room, the one behind my chair, and look at the dirt floor, look up at the broken slats of the wooden roof. Somewhere up there will be a room for me. Someday, a stair to it. The opposite of emptiness. A glass room. I have drawings of it. I have plans.

But for now and for years to come in reality, my small temporary blank room is all I have. All I might ever have. And I can’t say I’m unhappy with it. I know where I am. There is something that comes to this emptiness, something I am forced to make of it, make from it. I write and read and consider things in this place. I have always been here. My anyone’s room. Blank walls, blank canvas, silence or newness of sound, possibility. An unclaimed space. Something to work with.  Something that asks to be claimed, for the duration of the day, night, story, poem, essay.

Creative Spaces -- Guest Post by Jimin HanBio:

Jimin Han teaches at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute and lives outside New York City with her husband and children. Additional work of hers may be found in a variety of places, including NPR’s “Weekend America,” The Rumpus.net, Koreanamericanstory.org, eChook’s memoir app, Kartika Review and The Nuyorasian Anthology. She’s on twitter, @jiminhanwriter, and she blogs at Tumblr.

Comments

  1. Hi Jimin–
    I loved this story about how your office came to be what it is. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
    Victoria–

  2. What a lovely, reflective piece, Jimin, filled with vivid scenes. Thank you!

  3. Jimin Han says:

    Thank you both for reading and taking the time to comment. I think Victoria has created a wonderful series, and I’m so honored to be a part of it. I’ve been enjoying the other pieces and look forward to more. Her other series on writers talking back to their younger selves was also such a great idea, and I loved reading those pieces as well. Also, Victoria, thank you for your patience. You were and continue to be so understanding of the things that happen in our lives not only as writers but as mothers, daughters, wives, etc.

  4. Jimin,
    What a beautiful piece. Poignant, yet full of hope.
    Loved it.

  5. Mary Claire Mitchell says:

    It really is what we make of it. You have made it beautiful and warm. I know, I have stayed there.

  6. Jimin Han says:

    Oh my heart. Elf and Mary Claire! My peeps. Thank you for commenting. You’re the best! Means so much. xoxo

  7. Beautifully written, Jimin! A stunning piece!

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