Japanese poet Massahide said, “My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.”
Two weeks ago I walked into my office just like every other day. As I sat down in my chair to begin my 1st session of the day, I glanced out the window. Until early last summer when it was sold and reconstruction began, right across the street, sat a small dilapidated brown house, and it’s inhabitants: a couple who aged from their 70s through many changes over the 2 decades I’ve worked facing their home. For years and years I observed them come and go, water the plants, sit on the porch, talk to their neighbors. About 5 years ago I almost fell off my seat when I heard, through my open window in mid-summer, the man adressed in perfect Boston dialect: "Ahnie, how's ya sistah Trudy doing?" In that flash, it dawned on me that they weren't a married couple, rather they were a brother and sister couple.
Over time I introduced myself to them, and we said hello and chatted on the rare days when I wasn’t in a rush coming or going. Once over this past winter I was invited inside when the man was dying of cancer at age 87. His sister anxiously waited outside, and when I walked out of the front door of my building, she beckoned me with a look of fear in her eyes. She asked me to give her brother his medicine on this awful day when he was doing poorly and she couldn't figure out the dosage. A few weeks later I saw the well-dressed funeral men come to carry his body into the hearst parked by the side of the house. I wasn’t surprised, as I’d been inside and witnessed him in his small dark living room just weeks before.
During the next few months I sat with Trudy on her porch a few times as she grieved. She told me she’d lived in that house for all 90 years of her life, and that Arnie was born when she was only 3. Neither had ever married, so they lived out their life as a brother-sister couple, and she shared the intensity of her sadness in seeing him die. She said that she had recovered herself from cancer. She spoke of shame and sadness at not having enough money to give him the funeral and burial she had hoped, missing her brother terribly--- so long after the rest of their family had died or moved away from this family home.
A few months later, their house was sold and Trudy moved with her niece to NH. The new owner instantaneously gutted the insides of the small brown house. He began building a shiny, upscale new home for himself and his family of 4, using portions of the small brown shell of Trudy and Arnie's family home. The construction workers have gotten to know me also, (given how close my window is to where they work), and one day offered to show me around the inside as the re-built house is nearing completion.
The construction period has been onerous with piercing noise, and hours on end of debree being heaved from the windows and down the roof. I've been fascinated watching as they've expanded and transformed the ramshackled, beloved structure. My witness to all of these changes has felt important; I often think of Trudy and wonder how she’s doing-- what her reactions would be to the changes to her ‘forever’ home of 90 plus years.
On this particular day 2 weeks ago, it was sunny outside. I gazed up towards my window when I began my work day. My heart sunk when I noticed my view of a patch of blue sky had been blocked overnight --by a giant dormer they were adding to the roof. I sat through the rest of my day in a stupor of despair. By the end of the day I had found my super-powers---and rearranged all of the furniture in the room so that my view barely included the house---at all! This was a huge job! I pushed, shoved and carried a large couch, 2 giant chairs, a desk and various other pieces of furniture---all on my own with the adrenalin of a locomotive.
When I was finished, most of the pieces were in completely different spots, but the chair I sit in had only been moved about 1.5 feet, (ie., 16 inches), over to the right. I looked up to see outside the window, and the scene was now varying depths of shades and perpsective of green and golden leaves, and an even larger patch of wonderful bright blue sky. Attached are 'Before' and 'After' photos of the view from the very same window---after 20 years, created in barely an hour, from a 16 inch move of my chair.
This perspective change is a metaphor for the healing which can take place inside of us all, very rapidly, with the right connection. Since I cherish those moment of un-earned intimacy with Trudy and Arnie as my neighbors and now feel their loss, it never occurred to me to change my view until the moment of crisis: I had lost my patch of blue sky to the new dormer. Moving the chair with the rest of my furniture brought the view back tenfold.
In this exact same office from the exact same chair, your own fierce self plus my trust-worthy guidance sometimes finds us at an inner feeling of crisis. An internal shift can arise from this crossroad, and what's happening inside may seem subtle: The resultant transformation feels bright and sky-blue.
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