Point of View
Lani is an amazing designer. Suddenly I’m not the only one who feels this way and it’s keeping her quite busy. From time to time she smiles across our partners table and generously slips me a project just so I can keep myself fresh, exercise my creativity, and too kindly stroke my fragile ego. This last Sunday I sat in the dining room of a client’s house waiting for her to reappear from deep within her office to produce some pictures, when I was able to pause and enjoy her space from the inside. Large glass windows spanned the back of the home looking out over a slight rise that leads to a lovely Berrien wood. To be honest I was a little jealous. Every home that we have lived in over the last 10 plus years have had a great-room setting with large windows that take in a majestic outside. Our home in Virginia sits atop Blue Mountain; the front door stands at ground level, but in the back, where our 15’ tall A-frame windows face, it sits easily 10’ from the woodland floor. More than once we’ve had guests walk in and say, “Wow, I feel like I’m in a tree house”. Our first layover home in St. Joseph had large windows that looked out over the St. Joseph River. We spent hours idling away our day, watching boaters get stuck in the shallow river, or the Coast Guard ticketing sunburned weekenders.
Our home now lacks just that element and I’m finding it difficult to adjust. Claustrophobia and insidedness plague our every evening in contrast to sunsets or leaves blowing in the breeze. I have become so conscious of my views, that during a recent office move, I arranged my entire space with the desk at a catawampus angle just so I could see out of the studio windows to watch the weather. Everything ergonomically was wrong; my monitor was on the wrong side, I was crammed in a corner, and life was miserable. But I could see outside a window! Today in a cold sweat, hands shaking, I found myself fed up. Kinked neck from looking at my monitor crooked, I jumped up, toppling my laptop and spilling coffee, in a frenzy to move my desk to a reasonable spot. With great relief I sat a few moments later, easily in reach of everything and my monitor now in front of me, but staring at a sad white concrete wall. Now, 12 hours hence, I find myself clicking away on my keyboard in a much bargained-for window seat of an Amtrak train. It’s sunset and the Midwest sky is so large, animated and three-dimensional, that I forget for a minute that I’m on a train. Large puffy white clouds, indicative of a sky after a front pushes through, individually round out as though they demand center stage, back lit by the sun, as to say, “Look at me”.
Before long I know that I’ll have to read myself to sleep. A few months back I had my boys, flush with Christmas iTunes money, load a long desired book on my iPad for me. It’s by Rudolf Steiner and it addresses the topic of spiritual ecology. I don’t have the patience for many books like this in my life. But, it fits the iPad purpose perfectly. I can only read about a page before I have to spend a week digesting it. Then after processing the very complex issues and deciding if or how they fit into my life and beliefs, I allow myself to continue with another paragraph or two. I’m tactile, and I usually like a real book that I can wrinkle, spill stuff on, highlight, and fold down pages in the evening when I’m ready to set it back on the nightstand. My iPad book on the other hand is there in a pinch. And a week ago when I touched it last, with only a few minutes between meetings, it was expostulating on theories in the senses from Goethe, specifically the three different modes of experiencing our senses. His first mode is what we do consciously with our senses. For instance, we simply see the clouds as they bob past the train window. The second is the impression they make on us: do we like them, are they disgusting, are we sympathetic about them? Most of the time I don’t think about stage two. And if some of us do consciously think of stage two, none of us think about stage three; the knowledge that we “acquire about the objects as they reveal to us the secrets of what they are and how they work”. These stages are often equated to body, soul, and spirit.
Take it or leave it, it’s fascinating. How many times have I sat gazing out my Virginia windows soaking in the two young Hickory trees and thought about where they came from, who planted them, why I liked them, and more importantly, what they can reveal to me about what they are. Long after I’m gone, these two trees will stand strong and tall over a family possibly like mine. They shelter the deck from the sun, generate a warm cozy feeling to a living space, and create a sense of living outside in a future society who will likely be even more ‘insided’. Pausing for a moment and consciously acknowledging the feelings beyond what I hear, taste, smell, touch, or see; helps me better appreciate simple thing.
I guess I don’t need to read myself to sleep after all. I have clouds to figure out.