You never realize just how much stuff you’ve invited into your life until you have to pack it all up and haul it somewhere. Today I’m packing up life in cardboard boxes. Time to move. I marvel at the ways passion and devotion can equal accumulation: books, records, ticket stubs, playbills, love letters, photographs, receipts for purchases both large and small.
I’ve spent ten years in this house and the remnants of proof call for assessment. I scrutinize each object, asking, “How does this serve me? Should I leave it behind? How about that? Shall I take it with me?” Deciding what can stay and what can go over the maw of a plain, brown box reminds me of the poet who once uttered the words All of life is saying goodbye.
But this is a happy, although bittersweet, goodbye to the house on Frey Lake Road. The very fact that I can finalize my move from Georgia to New Mexico, after three years of living betwixt and between, is an answer to prayer: the kind you mutter all day long and call it wishing, the kind you whistle in quiet moments and call it hope, the kind you sob into the bathtub and call it desperation. My current has swept me onward: I have lived full time in Taos, New Mexico for three years, and founded my own art studio there. What was here, what we built here, it’s time has passed. A new family will move into this space, relieving me of the monthly mortgage and associated bills. A heavy burden has lifted and a new sense of freedom fills its wake. Still, I hear echoes of laughter in the walls; feel waves of tears in the carpet. The tattered green velvet couch that has held me, my dogs, my family, my husband, whispers to me as I pass. Belonging lingers in the very air.
Even the trees in the backyard are sighing.
I know, because I can hear them. I am upstairs in the loft, sorting books from the huge oak shelves we had custom built years ago. The loft is a stunning place, for it reminds me of the reason I bought this house: the huge pine trees, and the soaring windows that allow me to watch them from two flights up. A lot of bunk can be said about houses built in the late 1970’s. Having just spent thousands of dollars I don’t own to repair the cedar siding, the rickety decks and the cheap sheetrock walls that were drowned in a recent flood, I am well acquainted with their flaws. But the windows? These babies make it all worthwhile.
They’ve gotta be twenty feet tall, and adorn both the front and back of the living room. So close are the trees, and so potent the windows, everyone entering this space deems it The Tree House. Since it is built on a hill, and the living room is a double-decker, the house is an extension of the trees. Red-headed woodpeckers help themselves to the cedar siding, squirrels use the decks for dare-devil antics, bumble bees have more than once built their queendom inside our walls, and last spring, while completing renovations in the upstairs bathroom, we discovered an oversized chipmunk in the wall, behind the towel rack, apparently a determined mother-to-be who decided our bathroom made the perfect nesting place.
We’ve listened to owls call in the night, hunting the various scurrying, fluttering and chirping things we feed during the day. We’ve watched the first flight of the red-tailed hawk chicks every spring, the adults returning to the same tree each year to build their nest in our back yard. We’ve allowed ourselves to be astonished by the light: wintry and white, rainy and grey, summery and yellow, July full of fireflies and October full of geese.
And all the while, the trees.
Always the trees. Towers of green, pillars of beauty, leafy filters of all that glorious light, dappling our yard and the tiny brook out back with amber-bronze-silver-vermillion delicacy. Forget seeing sunrise or sunset, and consider yourself lucky to catch the moon’s nightly performance between 9pm and 3am. The trees are so tall, they act as the curtains, determining what will and won’t appear on our pieces of nature’s stage, framing the sky with their velvet leaves. And the windows? They’re the ticket to this ever-changing show. But more than that, the windows allow us to be part of it all, ensconced, as we are, in the middle of all the wild, green life.
Until a few years ago, no matter which window we gazed from, we were part of the cornucopia of trees and their bountiful harvest. Then a neighboring college decided to expand, and in a short two-year space, our Mutual-of-Omaha’s-Wild- Kingdom front yard was turned into a paved nightmare: huge brick buildings with flood lights, parking garages, student dorms, and a street teeming with buses and foot traffic. Trees were uprooted, houses demolished, neighbors forced to leave as the state claimed their property under the laws of “eminent domain.” The streets swelled with student cars, teacher cars, and patrol cars hired to keep visiting cars from killing local cars, or kids, or beloved pets. Sadly, as is always the case, the deer and opossums and rabbits were on their own.
Since 2005 it’s been hard to look out the front window. Most of the time we keep the blinds angled down, so we don’t have to witness the traffic, or the effrontery of cement that is now our view. But while preparing the house for a new family, the blinds have been cleaned and raised, and I sit on my knees in the loft, between the front and back windows, sorting life, packing boxes.
And it’s got me to thinking.
As a student of Law of Attraction, and as someone who firmly believes the adage “What you think on grows,” I am abashed to admit the front window draws most of my energy. Whether the blinds are up or down, it draws me like a magnet. I can’t help comparing What Is to What Was, and feeling the disappointment that accompanies memory. While I rarely find myself angry anymore, and have made great strides to be a friendly neighbor to all in the neighborhood (including the college – otherwise known as “The Great Usurper”), I can see clearly how I’ve often forsaken the beauty and fullness of the back window, in favor of the front, with all its drama. Sort of like the windows of soul and ego: the window of ego is loud, teeming with trials and traumas, while the window of soul sits quietly in the background, patiently waiting to be noticed.
Front window: harsh reality. Back window: Shangri-La. Front window: woulda-shoulda-coulda world of judgment. Back window: Lush realm of Is-ness and possibility.
One woman. Two windows. One choice.
Maybe its the emptiness of the house that snaps me to attention, the process of sorting and sealing up life, making tough decisions based on a lifetime of tragedies and triumphs. Should I take this with me? Perhaps, perched as I am between these two windows in a house swept clean of its furniture, I am only now perceiving clearly the options I’ve lived with for ten years. The options we live with as creators every day.
As an optimist and an artist, I adore the back window. The realm of soul is the source and wellspring of my creativity and the joy I experience while basking there is immense and satisfying. Why, then, the insistence of looking out the front window? Oh I know ego plays an important role in the life of any human being. It is, after all, how we become our selves, how we discover and define the gift that will ultimately serve not only us and ours, but the world at large. Ego, and its front window, is essential. But when I tarry too long at that portal, I tend to use words like “should” and “not” and “can’t.” When I set my focus there, lack and limitation rise to the surface until they’re all I see. My world shrinks to fit my judgment. Can I leave this behind?
As much as I’ve loved this house, and as much as it’s loved me, it no longer serves me. I pack these boxes, contemplating the windows, listening to the sigh of trees, because it’s time to move on. This is evident. Why, then, is it so difficult to discern when an idea or view no longer serves me? I may not always be able to identify when I’m dallying with an outdated or ill-fitting belief. I may not recognize my judgments or limited perspectives without the benefit of hindsight. But the two windows? It’s always pretty clear–if I take the time to stop and ask the question of myself–which one I’m looking through.
Simply put: gazing out the back window brings joy, gratitude, hope, and the delicious spaciousness that arrives in the wake of possibility, while the front window brings limitation, frustration, anxiety, despair. Loving What Is while focusing on something pleasing draws – according to the law of attraction – more of the pleasing toward me, and therefore, the pleasure multiplies. Resisting What Is while focusing on something I want changed, (that I have no control over) brings frustration, and draws even more toward me over which to be frustrated.
I can feel the two windows of my own psyche playing out on a daily basis. A problem arises that brings tension, and there they are, the windows. If I focus on what’s wrong, looking out the front window with all its blame and accusation, my world shrinks, and I am reduced to the role of victim. If I view the same situation from the back window, I am full of appreciation for all that goes smoothly, for all the blessings I have. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and in that view, my world expands. I can acknowledge what I don’t like, and attempt constructive steps toward remedies that lie within my control, but I have more power and potential if I do this while gazing out the back window, eyes full of possibility, heart full of expansion.
The college and its intrusion on my sanctuary is not my enemy. My window of perspective, and the judgments I pass while gazing through it, is my enemy. Or my best friend. It’s up to me. What I think on grows. Like green leafy trees. Like black asphalt jungles.
By sunset, I’ve determined the battered yellow-paged copy of “Macs for Dummies” has got to go. So, too, my collection of Anne Rice novels. I may even bequeath my 1981 Rick Springfield vinyl of “Jesse’s Girl” to the teeny-bopper who’ll now make a pink and zebra bedroom out of my old office. In a few days I will pass the front window and pull out of the driveway, leaving the trees and the brook and the green velvet couch behind. The freshly built nest where the hawks are, even now, tending their fuzzy-headed babies while planning first-flight lessons, must stay.
But the back window? It’s coming with me.