Story last updated at 4/1/2009 - 11:06 am
My wanderlust tends to peak around this time of year. I've spent a lot of time inside, often in small spaces, and haven't left Juneau in four months. As the snow melts, it reveals new spaces to walk in, and hints at the possibility of hiking without snowshoes. What I'm longing for, after these months enclosed inside in a small, finite town, is open spaces.
Living on a boat, we pay attention to space. There just isn't ever much to spare, and no space is ever without purpose. Since moving onto our boat, we've been in a constant process of figuring out how we can best use the space we have. This is complicated by the presence of some things that don't seem to belong on a typical boat, such as my electric piano.
And then there are the books, the heavy, space-consuming books. Some of them might be found on any boat, such as Chapman's Piloting. And plenty of boats have a shelf for some pleasure reading. But I have at least 100 books on board, on several shelves and overflowing into a box. We're plotting new shelves, and I'm doing my best to cull my collection down to the best, but it's a work in progress.
But if things ever feel tight inside our boat, we just have to step out and look out to sea to feel the joy of expansive space. It's almost enough to quench the wanderlust. I've released that one of the appeals of life on a boat is just how much you appreciate space - both the small, well-used personal space and the vast, unexplored space beyond home.
Many people choose to live in Alaska for the space. They might call it something else, like "freedom" or "wilderness," but it's really about space, I think. Space to be away from civilization, space to be alone, space to think.
How much space we need varies from person to person, and so does where we find it. There's a certain peace in the anonymity of a big city crowd, even if the physical space around you is packed with other people.
But even in big cities, there are big spaces without people to gaze upon. When I visited friends in Brooklyn last fall, we climbed a fire escape ladder onto a rooftop and looked across the city and up at the clouds. As clouds swelled and rain fell, I couldn't help thinking it didn't feel all that different from looking out across a Southeast Alaskan landscape.
Regardless of where we live, I think most of us feel some need for expansive space. Maybe we need to be reminded that there's space we haven't been in, space much bigger than us, space we can never feel. And then, at then same time, we need space we can fill. In our homes, empty shelves and walls call out to be filled.
Of course, space is always a consideration in newspaper layout as well. There's a finite amount of space to tell a story or write a column. Every week at the Capital City Weekly, I look at newspaper pages which need to be filled. Sometimes it feels like there's too much space to fill, sometimes too little. It's very satisfying when everything fits just right.
I've recently finally become a regular blogger, contributing to the two new CCW blogs, the Log Book and (P)review. It feels very free, and I think part of this thrill is the disregard for space. You can write as much or as little as you want - the space grows with every word you add. Writings that don't fit anywhere in the paper, be they too short or too long, might be right at home on the blog. We also don't have to wait for printing to share our words and photos with readers, which is very nice.
But looking back at the two kinds of spaces we like in life - the contained personal space and the thrilling expansive outside space - I can't help but wonder if there's a parallel for writers and readers.
The Internet never runs out of space, so unless your Web site is shut down or you take down your post, your words will be there forever, and they'll never fade. Web pages will never tatter.
But the book pages that do tatter offer something comforting, something meaningful in their finiteness. They cannot be changed. Printing words on paper is almost like setting them in stone in comparison to typing on a blog.
And just as I enjoy staring out at open waters and then snuggling into our cozy quarters on our boat, after delving into the expanses of online reading and writing it's nice to pick up a bound book.
I think this contrast bodes well for the future of physical books. I'll continue to try to whittle down our onboard library, but it wouldn't be a home without books filling up some of the space.
Katie Spielberger may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.