Taking a cue from the homes, and specifically the desks of other authors, this past fall I placed one of my desks in front of a window. Now, instead of looking into the walls of the house, I am looking outside, beyond the safe, and at times muddled, world I’ve created for myself. Through this window, the world around me is starting to come into focus.
Let’s begin by simply looking. What is outside? It’s a pretty typical suburban street. Concrete road with sidewalks. Single-detached houses across the street and to either side. Small front yards broken up with driveways. Trees planted in front yards. Today the landscaping looks rather sparse with a light dusting of snow – it’s January. A few leaves are still on the lawns, while several stubbornly cling to the trees. A gentle wind blows the rose bushes and ice is in the bird bath.
But as I look beyond I see other things. An American flag flies from a house across the street, a newspaper blows down the roadway, and a few Christmas decorations are waiting to be put away for another year. Cars are parked on the road and in driveways. Children are indoors getting ready for school.
I also see a cracked driveway. On this driveway an ambulance once pulled away to take my father to hospice. That was the last time he left the home. But I also see a driveway that continues to welcome family and guests. Sometimes this piece of concrete also serves as a stage for my nieces’ play and chalk art in the summer.
There are many stories on this street – and I know very few. Usually when I’m looking for stories, I’m eager to get in my car and drive to places with more character. A city coffee shop, a college campus. But this lack of “character” doesn’t have to do with the street, but with the fact that I haven’t opened my eyes to what is in front of me.
- To enjoy the gardens around each house
- To pray for the children on the street
- To say hi to the neighbor next door
The simple act of looking out the window is freeing me from the knotted ponderings of looking inward. I’m seeing opportunities where I had assumed there was nothing worthwhile, both on this street and beyond.
I moved this desk to actively make a change in my life. To stop waiting for a perfect place to live and write, and to claim this place for now. Looking out of the window, I know I also need to make this space my community, not merely a way station. I could continue to wait for that apartment in the city or that cottage down a lane – places where I have dreamt of taking up the great story of my life. But if I can’t see that story here, it’s likely I’d miss it in those places as well.
This looking takes a bit of courage. It’s likely the story will be different than what I had planned. But it will be a lived story, not only a dream.