Traveling in Norway a few years ago, my wife and I visited the home of the great composer Edvard Grieg (1867–1907). It was lovely to see his actual piano and get a sense of his life in the main house and museum, but what I especially enjoyed was the walk down to the lakeside to see his composing hut. Apparently Grieg, who drew much of his inspiration from Scandinavian folklore and landscape, had several of these huts scattered around.
It’s a lovely little red building containing a desk (in front of a large window that looks out across the lake), a piano, and a day bed. Nothing to do in that hut but think, sleep, read, and compose. All artists need a place that inspires then and all artists need a place to work. It’s wonderful when a place can be both and still give you room to take a nap.
Grieg’s hut reminded me of the cabins I’ve seen at writers’ retreats—places designed specifically to shut out the distractions of the outside world. Of course in rural Norway in the late nineteenth-century, those distractions were considerably less than they are today. I wonder how many of us would thrive in that barebones hut looking over the lake and how many of us would go crazy after the third day with no internet.
One thing I’ll say for Grieg—he sure listened to the old real estate adage: “Location, location, location.” His view out that huge window was of a deep blue lake backed by rocky hills and containing a tree covered island. I’m lucky to have a view of lovely green space out my office window. I’m far from the noise of traffic and on days like today I can look out at the rhododendron blooms and listen to the birds. I do most of my writing at a computer, and I’m constantly looking up information on the internet. I’m not sure how I’d do in Grieg’s hut. I might not get a lot of work done. I might enjoy playing the piano. I’d certainly love the view.