“Your desire to be near to a window is your desire to be close to life!”― Mehmet Murat ildan
Recently messages flooded my Facebook newsfeed wishing me a Happy Easter. Three of these greetings stood out from the others and really gave me pause. One was translated from Italian, another from Dutch, and the third came in Polish. For some reason, those brief Paschal blessings sent from friends around the world suddenly made our shared condition of sheltering in place real for me. Of course, like you, I had seen pictures of the eerily empty streets of Rome, London, and New York and I understood that the world had come to a halt in the abstract, but those words of hope and rebirth came not from nameless statistics, but from people with whom I had shared hugs, meals, and laughter, people who were now, in their own countries safely ensconced in the safety of their homes. The worldwide lockdown was suddenly concrete and very real. Across the globe, people are staying inside, wearing masks and keeping a distance of six feet as we connect socially through Facetime, Facebook, and Zoom. We go out only when necessary and watch the change of season from our windows.
Throughout history, people have been forced to take refuge in confined spaces for safety. I think of my ancestor, Hugh Trueman, who made the journey from Londonderry to Philadelphia safely below deck on the barque Bradshaw in 1839; I remember too, huddling in the northwest corner of the basement for what seemed like hours as tornado sirens blared; and we know many stories of Jews who went into hiding during the Holocaust, but never has there been a time in human history when so many people are sheltering in place at the same time. This truly is a singularly extraordinary time.
Lamps in lonely windows are symbols of connection. Each lamp illumines an area of the dark, and all lamps together create the community of light, sign of the human family, casting light abroad…beaming this message: ‘We who lit these lamps are brothers and sisters!’Kenneth L. Patton
My sister recently recommended a group on Facebook…View From My Window…where individuals in self-isolation around the globe share photos of what they see when looking out. The images are as varied as the people who post them. This morning I saw views of snowcovered mountains in Norway and sunny coral colored courtyards in Morocco. There are glorious views of oceans, lakes, and rivers and urban vistas of rooftops, metal, and sky. Some people see colorful gardens full of flowers and birds, while others view bare twisted branches that hold only the promise of blossoms and leaves. Photos come from skyscrapers in Dubai, brick-red villages in Africa, and small quintessentially American towns across the mid-west. Whether grand or humble the person posting always finds something to appreciate about the view, perhaps simply because it is home. It is where they are hunkered down, finding refuge, and comfort, marking the days as we weather the storm together.
Seeing the view from the various windows reminded me of the trip Dave and I took in 1999 from Fairbanks, Alaska south through the inside passage. Choosing which type of cabin to book for the ocean portion of our trip was a challenge. As you may know, cabins are classified by where they are on the ship and the size of the window. We knew that we wanted an outside cabin with a view and, although much less appealing, we concluded that a room with a single, small porthole probably best suited our budget at the time. Dave, in charge of making the initial deposit on the trip, headed off to the travel agent with a checkbook in hand. Upon his return, he confessed that he had upgraded our cabin to one with a much bigger window. “I just couldn’t justify being in Alaska and not being able to see it,” he said. He was right. We happily spent a bit more money and were able to enjoy the scenery without taking turns on tiptoe at the porthole.
This pandemic has made it abundantly clear that we are fellow passengers on this beautiful Blue Boat Home of ours. Yes, we’re all stuck in port on the same boat, but we are not all on the same deck. Some of us are comfortable on the upper deck, drinking our Mai Tais and wondering when we will be able to use our travel vouchers from canceled trips, whether the theatre will honor our unused tickets, or when we can stroll the aisles of garden centers, bookstores, and other small shops. Everyone is concerned about getting sick but not all of us have to worry about health insurance or whether we can pay our utility bill. There are still others on this journey whose only view is from the porthole and many, many more who have no window at all not to mention the hands sweating below deck working tirelessly to keep the ship afloat.
Between the light and darkness, we dwell, knowing both joy beyond measure and trouble beyond imagining. Keep us as we would keep each other, knowing that we belong together and that when we walk through the valley of shadows we need not do so alone.Burton Carley, With or Without Candlelight: A Meditation Anthology
As we hunker down and try to find equilibrium in our new normal let’s fling open our windows to the world beyond our own walls, allowing light and love to wash over us, reminding us that we are definitely not alone and until we can find the tools and precious glass to construct more windows let’s also remember with caring, compassion, and gratitude those on the decks below.