Dust, dust and more dust. The inside of my garage is covered with dust. Small and large pieces of dust. Gray and tan tendrils of dust. There are also paint cans filled with VOC free and non VOC free paints. A potpourri of various colors- blues, greens, oranges, whites, yellows. All colors used to paint the various walls inside my home. Other things located in my garage: bicycles, tools, chairs, canvas, pieces of wood, a dog house (this is where my German Shepherd hangs out), dog hair, saw dust, buckets, boxes filled with things that I think I need but will never need, a wood table, door hinges, spiders, a television set that I have boycotted and pair of shoes that my dog ate. The garage has many potential uses (painting studio, relaxation room, office). None of these potential uses are in the process of being fully realized at the moment. Instead the garage sits there, a mess.
The garage is detached from the house. It looks like a one room house with a triangular roof sitting alone in my back yard. It is positioned beneath a large oak tree that is currently loosing all of its leaves. The leaves are creating a frustrating mess all over the roof of the garage and on the property all around it. Sometimes I become so frustrated with these leaves that I roll around in them. As much as I blow and sweep them away they keep coming. Dead leaves are like humans in this way- just when you think there was enough, there is more. When I roll around in the leaves I feel like I am crushing them. Crushing them. Crushing them. There is some kind of deep, psychic or supernatural pleasure that I take in doing this. Rolling in the leaves is very satisfying. But anyways back to the garage.
Garages fascinate me. In America they seem to be sanctuaries for the average working/married male. I often notice men, who are usually over the age of 45, hanging out in their garages. It seems to be the one place in the suburban house where they can hang out alone unperturbed by the domestic space that is taken up by all the other family members who live inside. These men often come up with projects for themselves in their garages. Whether it be working on old cars, putting together model airplanes, building machines, or conducting strange experiments- the garage seems like a space where the average American man can have some power over their world. They can be alone and free to do what they want.
I want my garage to be this for me. As I said- my garage has a lot of potential. It is filled with space and high triangular ceilings (I am six foot five in height and it is nice being in a space where there is room between the top of my head and the ceiling). The inside of my garage is lined with old red wood that acts as roof and wall beams. The floor is made of cement and covered in car detritus but this can be easily fixed. I have often thought that hardwood floors would look wonderful in the garage but my wife often raises a good question, “where would we get the money in this terrible American economy?” True. So for now my garage is what it is- storage room and doghouse. But I tried to turn it into something more. So far I have tried to turn it into a writing room and a meditation room. Since it is in the back of the house it is a quiet space- free from car and people sounds. This is what draws me to the garage. It is a place where I can feel as if I exist in solitude even if I am living in the middle of a city. Even if my house is located just a mile or so from a major highway. In my garage I am able to feel alone while knowing that I am not alone. As far as I am concerned- this is the best kind of solitude. Urban solitude.
As a writing room my garage was not a success. I loved listening to the birds that spent the mornings and afternoons singing songs in the oak tree, but after an hour of writing in the garage I would begin to feel dizzy. I did not know if this was a result of all of the dust or the toxic fumes that emanated from the paint cans that sat just behind my back. I tried to tolerate the dizziness because I loved where my writing desk was located. In the garage there is a small little window that looks out into my backyard. I put the desk just under the window so that I could look out into the garden. Green grass, pomegranate and lemon trees filled in the small square space of the window. I could also see the blue sky above. Problem is that I spent more time staring out the window than I did actually writing. You see to be honest, as much as I want to write, as much as I feel compelled to write- I do not like to write. Writing is often a painful process for me. I almost always want to get up and go do something else. As I write I have to force myself to stay put in my seat. “Lets go! Lets go!” my mind yells but I have to force it to stay. Maybe this is why I gave up the writing room and turned it into a meditation space instead. I realized I needed to get control over my own mind.
Let me just specify by saying that my garage is a rather large space. When I say that I turned my garage into a writing and meditation room, what I mean is that I only set up this kind of space in a small corner of the garage. My desk was facing the window and away from all the boxes and junk that filled up the majority of the garage. It was like a small corner oasis amidst chaos. I don’t want to give the idea that I was able to turn the garage into any kind of organized space because this would be misleading. I only turned a very small section of the garage into an organized space. Is this not what all of us do? We take whatever space we can get and turn it into something that we can feel comfortable in while living in this very uncomfortable world? I think so.
You might be wondering about how I was able to get light in my garage. There are overhead florescent light fixtures hanging from the wood beams. Whenever the florescent lights are on there is this sludgy, bright, reddish, orange, rust color that seems to be oozing out from them. I have always thought that this cannot be a good thing so I don’t use the florescent overhead lights if I do not have to. Instead I plug lamps in to the few electrical sockets that are in the garage and those seem to work fine. As I get older my own eyes require more light to see, so on my writing desk I needed to have two or three lights for night writing. During the days the light from the window was sufficient (I should add that I never did get around to writing in my garage at night. In the evenings I am lazy and do not want to do anything that resembles work. Instead, I want to drink beer, watch movies, read, eat, have sex and/or just lounge around the house. After 5pm my worldly ambitions dwindle away into nothing.)
Once I converted the small section of my garage into a meditation room I began spending smaller amounts of time in the garage. The dizziness that I experienced while writing in my garage would dissipate once I went out and got some fresh air. I decided that if I did only twenty-minute meditation sessions there would be no problems in my head. I found a rug and laid it out. I then put my meditation cushion on top of that. I then found a table upon which I put an incense holder, a pack of incense and matches in front of a rather calming painting of Avalokiteshvara- the Buddha of compassion. My idea was that if I focused on this painting enough it would somehow help me to be more compassionate and forgiving in my life. Currently I carry grudges and can be rather judgmental so obviously the few weeks that I spent meditating in front of Avalokiteshvara did not do what I was hoping it would. But building compassion and forgiveness inside oneself is a process. It takes some longer than others and I am really in no hurry. The meditation space that I created in the garage was a step along a never ending path.
Did I mention the black, furry spiders that live in the garage? These critters can make meditation challenging. I would continually worry about a spider climbing on me or spindling its way down from the over head wood beams and onto my head or shoulders. No spiders that I know about ever did climb on me but I was continually concerned. Every morning I would wake up around ten am, put a blanket over my tired body and head out to the garage for my morning meditation session. I would light incense and sit in the lotus position on top of my meditation cushion. There is a small side door that leads into the garage and I would leave this open as I meditated. I would often look out this door as I sat on my meditation cushion. The garage would be freezing cold but I would tell myself to just let the cold be there without needing to react to it. Let it be, let it be. Slowly I would close my eyes and focus on my breath. Like leaves flowing down a river I would watch my thoughts go by. I would feel my feet falling asleep. I would feel cold. I could hear the birds singing in the trees providing a soundtrack to the plethora of thoughts that dragged around in my tired mind. Just before I was able to get myself into a blissed out state- I would think that I felt a spider.
After two weeks I dissembled the meditation space in the garage. It was getting too much. Every time I would sit to meditate, I would get close to a state of what Zen Buddhists call no self and then instantly think that I felt a spider crawling around on me. It was getting ridiculous. No matter how hard I tried I could not escape from myself and the spiders were there to remind me of this. So I closed up shop and let the garage turn into a space that I would not utilize. Instead my dog and all the junk I own would take over. I now meditate in another, more comfortable room of my house but we will get to this part of the tour later.