Even though I have a perfectly nice office on the second floor of my house, with a view over backyards to a distant line of trees, I never work there. Instead, I sit hunched over on a tatty leather couch in the living room, next to my vizsla, Charlotte, who dominates the space; and if she is cold, squashes up so hard against me that it is difficult to type.
Dogs love routines, and Charlotte loves her routines more than most dogs. It was a mistake to spend a lot of time with her on the couch when she was a puppy, because now she has an expectation of this being the norm and it is very hard to convince her otherwise. Frankly, I have given up trying, and most days, after the morning walk, she sleeps at one end of the couch, while I work at the other. Being an intelligent dog, when she isn’t sleeping she needs to be busy, hence the bone that is visible in this photo next to my coffee mug.
On the coffee table in front of the couch are envelopes of student work for a course I’m teaching online, a stove thermometer that I haven’t figured out how to attach to my new wood stove, and a pile of books. In the pile are several books of poetry, an encyclopedia of apples, a survey on the birds of Maine circa 1918, and Waterlog by British naturalist, Roger Deakin. This is my current reading, some of it for a new project, and some of it relating to my most recent novel, The Evening Chorus. And on top of the pile, like a crown, rests the dog’s leather collar.
Helen' book, The Evening Chorus, is out now.