Musings + Essays

Long Corridors.

By: Jen Shoop
"I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms." - C.S. Lewis

My parents taught us to prize solitude and self-direction. Every weekend day and summer afternoon, we enjoyed (or endured, as the mood might have been) “Quiet Time” from 1-3 P.M. My four siblings and I were sent to our bedrooms to read, draw, nap, doodle, play on our own. Sometimes this felt like torture, the minutes dripping by like honey. My sisters and I would occasionally scamper from bedroom to bedroom, down the carpeted hush of the hallway, mice at play. But I also remember well the afternoons I’d repose in my cave until dinnertime, my nose in a Nancy Drew, called back to company only by the ringing of my mother’s dinner bell. I now see the imprint of their ways in my near-constant hunger for time alone, the fact that my vocation is a shrine to seclusion.

C.S. Lewis wrote: “I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude.”

I recently transcribed this musing onto a wafer of paper on my desk. His words both parade and parry, reminding me to celebrate the crooked path — the long corridor — that brought me all the way to the little white desk at which I sit in my studio, thinking. And they also nudge me, with some rebuke, to unclasp myself from the noise and clutter in which I so frequently nestle.

There is treasure in the tranquil.

The other day, I thought how beautiful Lewis’s words were as an aspiration for my own children. I wish them long corridors and upstairs indoor silences into which they can pour their imaginations.

Wishing you, too, long corridors and empty sunlit rooms.


+I also wish you kinder seas. (Magpies often ask me for the exact wording of that quote – a great phrase to have in your pocket when someone needs some empathy in a tough time.)

+On moving back to my hometown of DC.


+On creative habits.

+On not wanting anything to change.

Shopping Break.

+A great gift for a budding artist. I bought this, along with Faber Castell pencils, for mini this holiday! Oso and Me also makes really adorable colored pencil rolls that you can monogram. Sweet gift.

+These pearl boots were really popular in a combat style that is now sold out, but I love them in the knee-high shaft length. Chic chic!

+Been on a puzzle tear…currently working on this. SO cute. But how fun is this double-sided one from the same brand?!

+One of my girlfriends has one of these mini Hermes-inspired bags and I swear it looks like a million bucks on her.

+This ribbed metallic dress is SO chic and only $29.

+Wish this striped and embellished sweater weren’t already sold out in my size! Missed it!

+STILL not over this gown. Wow wow wow.

+Obsessed with the color and fit of this mohair sweater.

+Comfortable lounge set on sale in flattering black — I LOVE Eberjey for loungewear. You can also buy just the pants on sale here.

+Micro asked Santa for “an excavator” — we bought him this Bruder. I think I’ll bundle with these construction jammies.

+Love these acid-wash joggers.

+This affordable boucle jacket would look fab with jeans and a white tee.

+OK now this cookie jar is beyond adorable.

+These tumblers are so sophisticated. I want to pour some sort of cranberry cocktail in one immediately.

+Dream winter mule.

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12 thoughts on “Long Corridors.

  1. I recognize this is not the point of the point, but do you do quiet time for your kids? We are on the cusp of “dropping the nap” and I would love to implement!??

    1. Hi! We have made half-hearted attempts at this in the past to no avail, but I’ve felt like the children are still just a little bit young to enforce this? (3 and 5 respectively.) I’m sure my mom had us all lined up and organized when we were itty bitty but we just can’t figure it out / have not tried to push it thus far. When I really need them quiet and focused for awhile (for my own sanity, or because I need to get something done), I have had some success in setting them up with a curated activity in their rooms, e.g., a craft, a sensory play bin, “new toys” (e.g., toys we put up in the closet and drew out and therefore seem new). I could see this being the seedling for getting them into a quiet time habit, with the ultimate goal of encouraging quiet play in their rooms.

      TL;DR — no advice from me; maybe other moms have had success and can share?


      1. When my son outgrew his nap I set up a CD player/streaming speaker in his room and he would spend 45mins to an hour listening quietly to an audio children’s book while building legos or similar. He called it his “storybox” and it was a huge hit. Even on days when it didn’t go that well it would result in 20-30 mins of quiet time. .

        1. I love this! You know, you’re making me think about our Toniebox, which is a screen-free digital storytelling device that even my son can control. I wonder if we set aside a handful of Tonies JUST for quiet time might be a good way to incentivize/celebrate.

          Thanks for the nudge!


  2. Love that quote, specifically because it roots that daydreaming, imaginative sense of wonder in a strong sense of place with so few words. I can so clearly see those spaces he describes in my own past and relate to the feeling of exploration.

  3. Truly, such chills over this quote, knowing what a magical world that upbringing led to! This is the best encouragement during a season in our family when quiet time for my extroverted six-year-old can be such a battle. We are constantly promising him it’s a gift, not a punishment!

    1. I agree — it gives me chills, too. It also makes me want to “do less” or (as a wise Magpie once put it) “do the small thing” when it comes to children. Encourage them to be bored, to be creative, to be quiet, and with only the sparsest of accoutrements/prompts. I don’t heed this advice as often as I should since it sometimes makes me feel better/more in control to direct them in activities on the weekends, when afternoons can sometimes feel very long. A good reminder for me to give them space and quiet to explore, even if it’s unwelcome (as the case might be with your son).

      Thanks for writing in, Lisa. Welcome to the comments section!


  4. We also had “Quiet Time,” and I remember resenting it too. I really do think it’s good for children to have alone time each day, especially when I think about how many of my own quiet hours ended with me taking a nap which I probably desperately needed!
    But now, as an adult, I treasure silence and my time alone. In fact, a huge reason I fear having children is because I don’t know if I can function without my own quiet time, haha! Kudos to all of the parents who have constant noise and interruptions – I don’t know if I could do it.

    1. I so agree — I really value that “imposition” from my parents during my youth. I definitely needed it! I became who am I because of it? It definitely shaped me, not only in the actual practice of it, but in the implicit assignment of tremendous value to introspection/alone time/quiet.

      A few months after my daughter was born, my husband told a friend: “The hard part of being a parent is not what you think — not the sleepless nights, not the crying — but it’s the fact that your time is no longer your own.” We both sort of slumped over at that realization, as we both really value alone time and I don’t think we’d really thought that through until that moment. But, you do it, and out of love. Sometimes you strain against it. But you figure it out. You can do it too!!


  5. That quote reminds me of another, from an essay Rivka Galchen wrote about her father for The New Yorker: “I believe that children arrive with their own life of the mind, and that to the extent that they get to spend time in that world which they themselves have invented—that’s pretty good. Much of the rest is roulette.” I’ve used it as a guidepost / reminder since reading!

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