My favorite thing as a little girl was our family Sunday drives. While some would head out to the country, we would tour the beautiful neighborhoods, pointing to one house or another and proclaim, “that one” when we came upon a place we imagined as ours.
This was the beginning of my obsession with people and their places. But it wasn’t only the iron gates and tidy gardens that captured my little girl fantasies. More, I imagined what the people through the windows were doing, I wondered of the life that I might never experience.
New mamas know. Sometimes the only thing to soothe a crying newborn is to drive the neighborhoods. It’s in those tender hours, Keith Urban serenading in the background, that the stolen glimpses of someone else’s twilight plays like a movie through a picture window…rolling slowly past frame by frame.
We are all voyeurs in one way or another. Every one of us. If we were brave, we would admit to ourselves that our daily routines reveal that other people’s lives have become more interesting, more essential than our own. In so many ways, this “other obsession” has seduced us away from initiating the needed conversations behind the panes of our own sanctuaries, our hands hovered over keyboards instead of calming those we love with a gentle touch. We long for something we can’t name.
Wherever I go in the world, I stare up at the windows and wonder what is taking place just out of view.
I hear the clanking of dishes being washed from the narrow cobblestone street below, smell the tang of curry seeping through the crusted slats, and smile at the laughter spilling down ancient plaster like an invitation to share the best part of a long day.
I’ve never had a home with drapes on the windows. My neighbors used to say, “I can see inside your house at night,” and that was fine with me. Someone once told me that my homes are a reflection of my spirit—transparent. And that’s just about the closest you can get to describing me in a word. The blinds in the house next door are never open. My sons have named it the “witness protection house” because the neighbors are so secretive and private with their lives. What an unusual concept in this know-everything-about-me online world. Yet as revealing as we have seemingly become, there is so little about us that people really know.
When did it start, this willingness to hide in plain site, shutters drawn to the windows of our souls?
My favorite image over the past five months is of a woman who refused to be invisible during this season of “tucked away”— We see the decaying side of an ancient stone building. Casement windows, a collection of many, flanked with these impossibly beautiful crusted blue shutters. There is one, thrown open wide, its weathered glaze reflecting the glory of the morning sun. Perched on the wooden sill high above the distant sea, is a woman, her face and body just out of view. But there’s this tiny sliver of a pink party dress spilling out, and these long naked legs, dangling, with their impossibly-high red stilettos crossing at the ankles just so.
Even on the narrowest ledge, the bold hope of the human spirit paints the whole world red. She understands. Life demands a party. A toast to breath itself! There is always something right in front of us to celebrate. Tiny advancements in the unending battle of humanity often look curiously like someone just beyond the soft linen drape, dancing in impossibly-high red stilettos.
Sometimes we are so focused on all the doors, so insistent on breaking them down, that we have missed the one essential, glorious detail…there are windows opening everywhere.