North Window

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Ice formations along the banks of the Charles River, Boston, U.S.A., 1988

For the past three days, just as Beth expressed in her New Year’s Day post, I have been filled with a mingled deep calm and radiating joy that seemed to flow in when I opened the living room window on the morning of the 1st. A shock of cold air greeted my nose, but there was also a dalliance of sunlight that glinted off everything, but most especially from the branches of the magnolia tree where lately the white-eyes gather in their frenetic rest stops. I stepped out into the garden, with its dried leaves and clenched soil, and just stood there breathing deeply for about five minutes. Then I stepped back inside and swept about the apartment, throwing open all the windows, letting the morning breeze in, with its bite, and busying myself with dusting the corners. When all was done I settled by the north window in my bedroom and sat still.

It was something new, because just days before, after creating three days of window rattling racket, the neighbor right outside had demolished his work shed and moved out of the house. For the first time in three years the north was quiet, without a soul moving in the small garden that never received full sunlight. I read a bit of Thich Nhat Hahn’s book, “Anger”, which makes you stop often to ponder and to let things sink in. A jungle crow barked from a distant rooftop, its voice echoing through the morning. I took to peering at everything there, in the runners of the window sill, in the crannies of the lattice panel I had put over the window to block some of the sudden openness to prying eyes, in the sky, and just in my room. The sky was filled with hazy cumulonimbus clouds without definite form, glowing pink from the warming sun. Dozens of star-shaped spider webs dotted the lattice panel, hiding the eggcases beneath. A sweet- bitter smell of decaying leaves wafted in through from the living room, stirring up pangs of hunger. My breath dispelled before my face in shreds of white tissue, disappearing into thin air. Dew clung to the window pane like a silver constellation in reverse, the slate in white instead of black. A male gnat, with feathered antennae, crouched in the nook of the lattice wood, pinched close to the corner, hiding, waiting for the hand of winter to pass. And my tea and buttered toast smoked with warmth, fingering the moment as I sipped and chewed, simple sustenance. I closed my eyes for a moment and just let the stillness wash through, feeling the cleanliness of a hungry stomach and a mind cleared of noise. Here I am, I thought. Here I am.

This slow burning away of anticipation and anxiety, of just smiling without rancor or expectation, is exactly how I wanted this new year to begin. And how this greeting of myself, as the mirror swivels, would allow me to nod and remember what last year wrought from my heart. It is not anger or fists that I want or even need. It is this calm acceptance. Somewhere in the great mechanism a gear has shifted. And I would walk from such a dawn into the open, to find a tree somewhere and sit, waiting. To not disturb the surface with a flurry of excuses, no hand-tossed crumbs of complaint or outrage. Sit still, waiting. And let the trees teach me a thing or two about peace.

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