When our son Ingo was in elementary school, Chris took to calling his homework time “green table time.” It localized the work and made it more palatable. Sitting at the green table signaled Go; stepping away signaled Stop. And when Chris or I joined him there, we found it easier to stick with our own chores, too. Chris still sits at the green table to pay bills, keep accounts and write letters.
A few years back, my sister Kari cleaned out a medium-size closet in her bedroom, just enough to fit a pillow inside it, and every morning she sat for 10-15 minutes of silence. During the day, when life got difficult, she found she could conjure up that closet and it calmed her.
That’s how it is with the green table for me. Even away from it, when creeping work deadlines overwhelm me, I can summon a green table-mentality—but the truth is I miss my pal Ingo at the table.
So last September, I invited three writer friends to join me for plum cake and work on Friday afternoons. One brought a fellowship application to fill out, another submitted poetry to contests, and the third thought I was kidding about the work part, but gamely pulled out her notebook when she saw we meant business. We set a timer for 20-minutes and worked four sessions in a row with 5-10 minute breaks in between to catch up, make tea, eat cake.
For the first “green table” sessions, it took awhile to suss each other out, what with people buzzing the door at different times, bringing different energy and expectations into the space, and gifts of strawberries, biscotti and tea. At first I felt distracted and hostess-y, but always by the third work segment, the absorption at the table took hold and I got deep into the groove and liked it there.
As green tabler Nancy wrote in an email, “It’s one thing to enforce sitzfleisch—to make your spouse chain you to the table, as Herman Melville’s wife reportedly did, but the green table provides a more gentle, communal means of motivation and accountability for the lonely act of creation—not to mention sweets and snacks.”
Now we Friday regulars have met more than twenty times. My work mates—all published writers—steered me away from randomly sending out completed essays, my initial goal, and since January I’ve used the time to write and post this blog.
Without time set aside, and the accountability of the group, I’d have given it up long ago.
And the great thing is, any color table works.