I just sat down and fell in love.
I hadn’t been to The Bookmill, found in The Montague Mill, and was looking to escape my house while the septic system tank is being replaced. I’m a big fan of toilets and running water, so having no facilities for five hours is not something I seek to keep on my agenda.
Members of my writing group spoke of this space in passing, people online had asked if I’d ever been there. It was becoming evident that I needed to go check it out. I don’t live near The Bookmill, in fact it is about 25 miles from my home, but when you live in the country, that’s not so far.
I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared to fall in love with the space.
I sometimes get nervous going new places by myself for the first time. I push past the fear and go anyway, but it’s still there. Driving north toward my destination that initial panicky feeling rose but I squashed it: This is the purpose Tara, discovering new places. After you get there, it will no longer be anxiety provoking. It will just be another one of your places you go to write. Luckily, I’m very good at convincing myself to be stronger and bolder than I am.
I arrived before The Bookmill opened and a kind man was quick to inform me that it didn’t open until 10 am, but the Lady Killigrew Cafe, attached to the used bookstore, was indeed open.
I order coffee and precariously carry the overfilled cup down a small flight of stairs. Only one little round pine table is available near a window and I head toward it. As I arrive, I look out the window, a grin overtakes my face, and my chest fills with unexpected happiness. I am in love. And standing there like a grinning fool.
I hadn’t heard it — a small river. The Sawmill River flows over rocks creating mini rapids, the sound muted by a combination of closed windows on this chilly fall morning and The Velvet Underground singing Beginning to See the Light overhead. I want to cry and soak it all in at the same time, it is such a salve to the chaos my life has been.
I realize as I remove my jacket and sit that I have a thing for old renovated mills, always have yet never thought about it. And water. There is inherent peace near water. Reminders of things I like has become a daily phenomena, and I am loving it.
The Lady Killigrew cafe has large windows, typical of old mills, surrounding sashes are painted black, flanked by maroon linen curtains, and rise from floor to ceiling. The wood plank floor is worn throughout, and perfect. Outside is overcast, but bright. Wild flowers — daisies, orange marigold-like blossoms, purple trumpet shaped sprigs I cannot name — modestly sit in a miniature wine carafe serving as a vase on my table. Mismatched chairs of a redder hue than the tables are worn in places that bodies rub and a local artist’s creations hang on the wall, one featuring the mill itself. Thick pipes painted yellow hang from the wood ceiling, a sturdy floor to ceiling beam runs through the center of a long rectangle table in the center of the room.
Conversations go in and out of my awareness as I write. A man in his 50’s is discussing the presidential candidates, states that Trump and his behavior, featured all over the news these days, is triggering his own tormented memories of youth. “I had no safe space,” I hear him say and I think: Me Too. Just not in the same way. This place seems like a safe space though. Yes, this is a safe space. And I had to push past fear to actively discover it for myself.
Someone grounds coffee beans and the music changes to The Zombies’ Time Of The Season. College age couples laugh over old photos on a computer, older female professors flanked with books about ethical and legal issues in counseling sit nearby. One stops a woman she doesn’t know and thanks her for the prayer offering at a peace rally she has participated in. I witness kindness. This is why it is important to go out into the world, I think. Witness the good in people being human. I like those who accept the frailty of others without trying to destroy it out of their own insecurities.
At that moment, I realize, I am holding space. Holding space for myself.
The sun breaks through the clouds and makes its presence known across the treetops, onto my little round table, and bounces off the coffee in my cup. One of the employees asks patrons if she can open some windows and my ears are flooded with the wonderful sound of rushing water. I was thinking I might be ready to leave soon, but now I can’t. My ears can’t get enough. I can’t fill up enough. So I just let the sound flow through me.
I sit next to that window and try to remember, was it new spaces I’m looking for, or safe spaces?
Either way, yes.