I want to live in a house again where I can look to the eastern horizon and see the rising sun splash its “Bronco Colors” across the underbellies of the earliest clouds splayed against the retreating night-time sky. It starts as a hint of fiery reddish-orange that seems to gather a life of its own and consume the fiercely smoke-gray sky. In the course of just a few minutes that edge of light spreads upwards, bleeding the color along with it and transforming everything it touches. Sometimes I stand on my little patio, coffee in hand, and watch the transition from night to day, or I stand in the warmth of my kitchen and watch through the glass in the patio door. There is only one corner where I can catch a view of what’s left of the open fields, unencumbered by the angles of rooftops of the new houses in my subdivision.
Not that many years ago I would go out to the barn in the early morning to feed my daughter’s horses, her fat little dog dancing along next to me in joyful accompaniment. My daughter’s older horse, Shorty, would inevitably be standing out in the arena, facing the colors of the rising sun as if he relished every dawn as much as I. Only reluctantly, it seemed, did he turn and come back into his stall to munch the can of oats I poured out for him. Walking back to the house, watching my breath steam in the chilly air, I would sometimes be treated to the spectacle of the moon setting over the just lighted tops of the highest mountains to the west as the sun broke the eastern horizon.
It is memories like these that come to haunt me when I think of my marital house for sale. I haven’t lived there for more than four years, but it is a place where a true urbanite like me first learned to appreciate stillness and space and the cycles of day and night, the moon and the stars and the sun. On summer nights with the windows open as I lay in bed, I could hear cows lowing in neighboring fields and the snort of the horses in the barn. Coyotes routinely sang and howled, too, yipping and moving closer and farther away through the inky darkness. For a couple of years the cackle and crowing of a nearby flock of chickens and their rooster heralded the morning light.
I suppose it was all the loss and change and distance in my life that turned my spirit to what nature there was available to me around that house. My husband traveled three or four days a week, three or four weeks a month for work. He is a stone that relishes skipping across the surface of a pond; I am a stone that likes to be thrown and sinks right down, watching the ripples spread across the surface far above. As my marriage deteriorated I tried to fill that space with other things. Then my brother sickened and died and I was desperate for peace.
I love the home I live in now. It is perfect, full of quiet space that was big enough for my children to share a bit of for a while, and not too big to inhabit now by myself. I can still see a bit of the horizon to watch the sun, but when my friend texts me to look to the east to see the rising moon I can’t see it until it has mostly lost its orange color and rises above the rooftops of the houses not far from me. For four years the crash in the housing market has kept the lots behind my house, to the east, empty of new building. I have been spoiled by the extra space. Now houses are springing up overnight, and a couple of lots away to the north a foundation is going in. My time in this house, in the relative space, is limited.
I am being turned inward again, this time to the quieter spirit waiting there. I have learned to shush my mind, and sometimes when I am lucky, to detach from the rush of thoughts that gather and flow like a rising tide against the quiet. A spiritual teacher I know helps me think of it this way; God is stillness. We must learn to touch that place of stillness because it is from there that we can deal with whatever is around us to cope with. The stillness is the place from which all answers come. How can I heal my broken heart? The answer is in the stillness. How can I live a life that feels full of meaning as I transition from what was to what will be? Stillness. How do I survive the storms and vicissitudes of just being who I am?
On recent mornings as I stand and drink my coffee and watch the sunrise I hear the geese honking on the lake a couple of miles away. This morning in the watery light, maybe a thousand ducks flew over, fluttering their wings madly and making that peeping sound they do as they flap and swing and change positions, dashing wherever it is they were headed. My dog, Mojo, stood beside me and looked up and watched the ducks, too. I could feel my heart rush along with them.
I am finally ready to let go of the past, to make peace with it and let it dissolve. I may be sitting in the figurative “empty nest” these days, but unlike the veiled warning my mother used to purvey in her admonition, “You better be careful or you will end up alone..,” I am not alone. Stillness is deeply, richly full. I think I finally get what my grandfather saw as he sat, well into his nineties, on the porch of his house and stared off into the hills of southeastern Ohio as day turned to evening. Now, in my mind, I can sit with him.