Thursday, July 26, 2012

Darkened Windows


I was just, a few minutes ago, laying on the loveseat in the toyroom, gazing at the darkened window.

In the dark, you can imagine that you are situated in any place.

I could be in the middle of the country, with space, with land. Outside that darkened window could be acres of beautiful land, ready for me to go out and roam into. Staring at a window that is filled with black void lets you imagine the most wonderful things outside.

But, no. The reality is, on the other side of the darkened window is the same suburban landscape I've looked at for 10 years. Houses and tiny yards. Neighbors who don't really know each other.

But does it have to be that way? Is moving out into a rural home really the ticket to the freedom I'm longing for? We drove through some countryside just a few days ago, heading to my cousin's house for a visit. I passed a wonderful property that had a sign in front, advertising an upcoming auction. I craned my neck to take in the simple beauty of the place: a smallish house filled with character, a large shed, a bigger outbuilding with 2 car doors, a barn, a long stable-looking building. A fenced in area in which two horses stood, nibbling the ground. A few large, old trees added character to the view. Nothing looked perfect, exactly--in fact, the buildings looked worn, and the house definitely didn't fit the bill of a 'dream-house.' Yet, immediately, my imagination took off and I pictured myself, my family, puttering around here. Raising food and goats and chickens and keeping horses and living peacefully.

I uttered my daydream out loud: "wow, wouldn't it be cool to live out here." My words were met with an incredulous look that only a 13-year-old can manage--my own teenage son sighed and said..."no, it would suck. There's nothing out here to do. There are no cool neighbors."

My first instinct was to give him a look, and say "You would find plenty to do. You would meet the neighbors. Long days of quiet country life would do us all some good!" I held my tongue, because I knew this was just a way for my teenager to bait me, to push my buttons, and I wasn't going to get into a silly debate with him just for the sake of bickering.

His words made me think harder, though. We are happy here in our humble home. Yes, it's the suburbs, and yes, we are limited in what we can do. We have very little space outside, but our 'outside' is much more than just our property line, especially to the kids. To them, the property doesn't end at our driveway, or where the maple tree divides our front yard from the neighbors--to them, the whole neighborhood is their home. They roam to the yards of dozens of neighbors, and those kids who live within the confines of our suburban lots do the same, arriving at our front door daily. The kids hop on their bikes and that extends the lines even further.

In the same way, my sense of being 'closed in' is soothed by my long walks along the street. Waving or stopping to talk to neighbors. Making real effort to talk to my immediate neighbors every time we are outside together, even bonding with one of them over tomato growing. The better I get to know my neighbors, the more of a sense of community I feel. Most of the time if I begin to discuss gardening, they become very interested. I sort of enjoy it--being the somewhat 'eccentric' neighbor who is a little bit obsessed with her gardens.

Instead of longing for a big space to call entirely my own, perhaps I should be claiming this place as where I'm meant to be. Perhaps I should be looking for the ways that I can grow my own food, dry my clothes on the line, ride my bike to the places I need to be, all while getting to know my neighbors and loving my community. Perhaps this is where I make my mark, even if my soul calls out to the rural landscape.


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