When I was a young lad we moved to Chicken City on a rainy day in May. Our house was on a hill in a quiet neighborhood that, looking back, resembled Mayberry, North Carolina in many ways. At the end of that memorable day spent exploring the new house and its mysterious basement, the wooded back yard and the nearby park, I came home to discover an orange glow emanating from my parents’ bedroom. Through the western window the sun was shining from a narrow band of sky between the horizon and the thick cloud bank above, which glowed with coral and bronze and stretched to infinity.
I returned to that window many times growing up, and again as an adult when circumstances decided that we would live in the old family home for a while. The folks were gone. The town of my youth was gone and Mayberry had become Mount Pilot. Children no longer roamed the neighborhood. Floodlights glared through the woods that remained, and there was nothing mysterious left except for memory.
Yet the sun still shined through that window, and a bit of sky still stretched to infinity, beyond the loud music and drunken shouts of the neighbors and the sounds of traffic. At the end of a hard day I would sit with a cup of tea and look out that window and travel back in time.
This morning my favorite window looks out over the deck and into the forest. The sun is just now coming over the mountain and illuminating the tree tops. Dogwoods in full bloom punctuate the advancing green palette of spring. There are dewdrops on Tracey’s container garden of broccoli and lettuce, and I’m already thinking about the salad we’re going to make for lunch.
A steaming mug of cappuccino sits on the desk and I can taste the sourwood honey in the foam. A squirrel is cutting leaves from the top of a giant poplar tree that will soon be covered in blossoms, and a yellow hammer woodpecker is arguing with a cardinal about the suet feeder. Watching a doe and her fawn grazing on the fresh grass that the recent rain inspired, I hear Cuthbert the Rooster crowing and my thoughts travel to the other side of the wood as I wonder if our neighbors will need more eggs today.
How nicely this window frames those earthly concerns that are the most important, the enterprise and well being of family, the support and companionship of neighbors and community, and the good health of all the residents of this mountain forest entrusted to our stewardship.
Outside the frame of my window and beyond the mountain, the noise and the stink of civilization accompanies its insatiable appetite to digest the planet. Ozymandias builds his monuments and Silicon Babel baits the masses with bread and circuses, herds them with fear and outrage.
Same as it ever was, but magnified by technology. Babylon wants to frame reality for us. Fear this. Buy that. In the vast tapestry of human experience, breaking news shows us every broken thread. It pulls at the edges of the fabric and urges us to grab a corner and tug. Real life and real suffering will always fray the cloth, but if we can only see the damage, we forget that we are also weavers with the ability to repair, to reinforce and to make new.
The babble of Babel does not describe the real world, but every day we believe it is real moves us a little closer to that reality. The choice is important. The windows framed in our hands, carried in our pockets, in our vehicles, sitting on the night stand, dominating the den, are powerful. What they frame can aid us, or dominate us, and make no mistake – the intent to dominate has never been so apparent.
We can’t always control what we see outside the real windows that show us the real world outside. We can choose what we see through everything that has a battery or a power cord. Most importantly, we have the power to frame what we see in our mind’s eye. Choose wisely.