We hadn’t thought of a website having the ability to act as a sanctuary until we read about Laurel Schwulst’s odd, charming Firefly Sanctuary on Deep Sea Diving (a lovely read). It is the name she’s given to her apartment in Brooklyn — her first without roommates — and the website she created about her life there. It is a digital space that conveys the rare quietness and attention she gives to everything in the apartment and how it makes her feel and live.
She documents her pleasure in the apartment’s space and light and spare simplicity, including such seemingly mundane subjects as “cable management”…
cables are one of the most lyrical components of any home — when you let them be.
…and the area of above the fridge that is a venue for changing still life: “one of the unexpected joys of the sanctuary”.
The site’s charming oddness comes from a number of elements, like its asymmetrical design which is not the obvious template, but one you have to explore to figure out how to navigate. Schwulst also uses the “we” voice, and reports about herself in the third person. It takes a while to realize that “we, she, her” are the same person. It makes for a strange sort of poetry:
we remember laurel lounging in her chair one evening, over the summer, the fan blowing to keep her cool … and she noticed her curtain was moving in a beautiful calm way. laurel thought to herself, ‘all walls should move.’ it was as if the firefly sanctuary itself was breathing too.
Firefly Sanctuary has echoes of Improvised Life, which often employs a similar eccentric use of pronouns. As does the quality of “sanctuary”, a quiet place out of the fray, which is how many readers describe Improvised Life.
A website allows a quietness and separateness that are key to the sanctuary.
We understood the resonance when we came across a link to an Improvised Life post that Schwulst used as inspiration for her Murphy bed hidden behind a curtain with a lovely acknowledgement:
one reason we wanted to share the “firefly sanctuary” more publicly … we wanted to give back. we wanted to share with the internet what we had so graciously learned from it. so thank you to this blog post for giving me the idea to elegantly hide the firefly sanctuary’s bed behind a curtain.
Schwultz reminded us how a site can have a gentle influence, and a feeling of sanctuary and calm.
She loves to to consider the “invisible, mental counterparts” to the visible, physical things in her sanctuary. She described it this way on Deep Sea Diving:
For example, getting rid of tables could be a metaphor for removing thoughts to create space. The space above the fridge is about paying attention to areas often overlooked. When looking for a solution to a problem, I love to think about which stones I haven’t overturned. In other words, use what’s around you already. Sometimes things simply need to be repositioned or looked at anew to unlock their full potential… Zooming out, that’s also a good strategy for life. What’s here and how can I recombine it in new ways?
Firefly Sanctuary is totally unique: a quiet digital pleasure that refocuses our attention on fleeting moments of beauty available to us if we just slow down…