Salt Lake City, Utah
The third week of October, 2016.
Stormy weather all week – rain, wind, lightning, thunder, and snow on the Wasatch Mountains from an early-season cold front that roared through, leaving the ground all around carpeted with red and yellow leaves, sparkling with frost at dawn. Nice.
After two weeks in the parish ministry, I’m ready to go back home and calm down.
I’ve a renewed appreciation for the role of a full-time professional minister in a lively congregation. And a renewed appreciation for the quiet solitude of a writer’s life. Glad I came. Glad I’m going.
(If you want to see what I said and did on Sunday, you can go to the website of the Salt Lake Unitarian Universalist Church and see videos of the Sunday morning services for Oct. 2 and 9.)
I’ve been house-sitting for these two weeks in the home of Tom Goldsmith and Mary Tull – looking out their windows into the landscape of their daily lives – thinking of them and our friendship – the photograph at the beginning of this journal is of their window – the one that provoked this essay.
WINDOW GAZING – Looking out – Looking in . . .
If the weather gods washed your windows with rain recently, and you stood looking out at Fall leaves falling as night fell as well . . .
And a mix of melancholy and memory brought feelings to the forefront of your mind, you may have had the urge to write a poem or a song . . . . as I did.
Most people don’t get much further than that brief moment of inspired thought.
But poets and songwriters seem to be provoked into creative action by looking out through rain-streaked windows into the world and inviting their muse to stimulate their imagination.
Me, I’m not a poet or a songwriter, but I take pleasure in at least feeling the urge to create something out of that window-gazing experience.
So now you know how this meditation came to be . . . .
Window gazing is not a group activity. You don’t call your friends or family in to join you in moody thoughts while you stare out into the rainy day. . . . .
Window gazing is a habit of painters, as well . . . .
Window gazing is a feature of solitude – something one does alone.
Yet, if you shift your visual focus from out there to what’s right in front of you,
it’s clear that you are not alone, alone. The window panes serve as mirrors, reflecting your image as a window gazer.
There you are . . . . looking out through yourself . . . .
Window gazing is not entirely a lonely occupation – because nostalgia brings the gift of images of other people, other times – not just past, but present in the scrapbook of memory. . . .
Window gazing is best done with music in the background. My choice is what Bach wrote for unaccompanied ‘cello – performed by Pablo Casals. . . .
Window gazing slows the pace of a frantic life – it’s not a speed-based activity. . . .
Window gazing is best done in front of a window that can be opened, so that after your mind has been opened by the provocations of solitude, you can expand the experience by hearing the sound of rain, by smelling the perfume of the air, by feeling the touch of the bold, cold breath of Mother Nature. . . .
Window gazing doesn’t take long, doesn’t cost anything, doesn’t require permission, and doesn’t leave marks except on your spirit. . . .
Window gazing is the Zen Yoga of being still – looking out, and looking in. . . .
Many years ago an architect friend told me of a client who hired him to design a house. The client was not in a hurry – he wanted a dwelling he could live well in for a long time. He spent most of a year walking around the property carrying a window frame and thinking about what he would see at different times of day in different seasons. He had the architect design the house around what he wanted to see when looking out, and how he wanted the incoming light to fall into the rooms of the house. The final design of the house was a matter of vision – enabling looking out and looking in . . .
When the time came to design my own house up in the La Sal Mountains, I remembered that man. I located my bedroom in such a way that the first thing I would see when sat up in my bed at sunrise was a long view of trees and mountains through a large window facing east. A window that in fact is a sliding wall of glass offering me a floor-to-ceiling view. It gives my day a thoughtful beginning. And keeps me from getting up and rushing into the tasks of the day.
For thousands of years there was no glass – no windows – and now . . . one of the blessings of the age we live in is this magic clear enabler of those who are inspired by window gazing – looking out, while looking in . . . .
People like me . . . and I would guess that you are a window gazer, too . . .
I’m indebted to Nick Olson and Lilah Horowitz for inspiring this meditation.
I do not know them, but they built a house out of windows.
You will understand my appreciation of their thinking and building by linking to:
house of windows