On Lava Lamps
I’m about to say a bunch of things that probably everyone can relate to. Please feel free to nod along.
I have a lot of very intense feelings about objects and spaces. I tend to pack-bond with certain objects, while harboring irrational hatred for others. My mood is directly affected by the rooms I find myself in, and a lot of my happiness is entirely dependent on my surroundings.
For example: I try not to have any blank wall space in my house. Blank, beige walls are viscerally upsetting. They’re like buzzing white TV static. I need to cover them up with anything - posters, art, bookshelves, anything that has texture. My space needs to be be vibrant and chaotic, otherwise I’ll be unhappy living in it.
Conversely, I get a visceral satisfaction by adding things into my space, or removing them and making way for better things. The day I found an 80s-era radio alarm clock with faux wood paneling was a good day. When my mom found a solid wood table and decided to give it to me, that was a good day. Driving nails into the side of a shelf so I had a place to hang up my ruler and scissors made it a good day.
I’m not a designer. I don’t really care to design and architect the space that optimally satisfies me. I’m more of a gardener - constantly in a state of revision and weeding and planting to find something that pleases me in the moment. The process is as appealing as the result, and I would never call my space “done.”
Of course, none of these changes matter unless I’m paying attention to them and spending time in the space in question. And I really like to spend time in the space in question. But I like to do it with intent. I like identifying the rituals I partake in. Identifying how I interact with the space, and how I can improve it with that in mind.
- I like to read in my front room, lying on the couch, so I make sure to have good light and access to several surfaces to place coffee and tea and snacks.
- When it’s sunny in Winter, I spend all my time in the one room that faces south, so I’ve put glass prisms in the window to make rainbow patterns play against the back wall.
- When I come home, I like to empty out my pockets, so I put a nice wooden bowl by the door.
- Whenever I’m working on a hobby (Sewing, painting miniatures, planning tabletop games) in my office, I’m committed to sitting at my hobby desk for hours at a time, so I like to turn on my lava lamp while I’m working.
A Lava Lamp, in case you’re not familiar, is a sealed glass bottle full of an arcane mixture of oil and wax that sits atop a heat-emitting lightbulb. When turned on, the wax heats to a point where it’s less dense than the surrounding oil mixture, and floats up to the top of the bottle in big globules, where it eventually cools and falls back down.
They’re fun to watch, but the light generated by a lava lamp is laughable - more akin to a nightlight than a reading light - and they’re not particularly energy efficient. And to really solidify themselves as useless novelties, most lava lamps take about half an hour to heat the wax enough that it begins to rise. They’re well and truly useless devices. But I love mine.
With the way my brain likes to partition space and time, a lava lamp is a very comforting thing. When I turn on my lava lamp, it means I’ve committed to spending the next several hours in the room with it, enjoying the warm light it produces and occasionally staring off into space watching it. The act of turning on a lava lamp is a statement of purpose. It means I won’t be wandering aimlessly around the house, or deciding to go out and run errands. I’m staying right here, I’m enjoying the lamp, and I’m going to do something with my hands.
Switching on a lava lamp and taking a seat means that I am home, and I’m spending my own time, lazily and intentionally, with myself.