Sunday, March 12, 2006

What others see...

Our front porch features two windows that look into the front living room and I stood out there at dusk tonight with my camera. The resulting photograph reminds me of a couple of things:

First, one of my favorite things to do is walk or run at night. If I go at night Mr. Half is always with me, and it's great to wind through the neighborhood and catch the glow from houses as people start the evening portion of their day. Sometimes there's a burst of laughter. A kid practices piano. Couples having a glass of wine on the porch or someone's talking to a child as they stand next to the kitchen sink. Televisions flickering. Spotlights over the driveways as kids play a last game of basketball. The faint garlic bread and oniony smell when someone makes spaghtetti or lasagna and the opening of a door releases that heavenly aroma.

Daytime running through our streets allows me to see people as they leave for work or work in the garden or pull into the driveway after school, but windows and doors reveal nothing and most of their "living" takes place away from home or behind opaque screens that deflect the sunlight. Nighttime lets you walk by and catch a glimpse of people living together as roommates, friends, families. Sure, the streets are a little quieter, but the yellow lamplight spilling out from the windows gives you the "all is well" sense that everyone's cozy and comfortable and safe. I know it's not always true for everyone in the big world, but in our little world it feels like we're checking on everyone to make sure the neighborhood's okay.

The other thing is that Mr. Half always goes out at night after the kids go to bed and checks the doors to the cars to make sure they're locked. He's done this as long as we've been married and he also stands on the driveway and talks to the cats. He walks up the stairs to his office that is over the garage and checks the lock and then goes back down to the courtyard entrance to the little service porch and passes through to the garage again to get a beer out of the refrigerator that's out there. What I didn't know for the longest time was that he used this little quiet time to stand for a bit out in the yard and watch us through the windows. Not up close like a stalker, but way an observer. He walked to every window and, before we got the dogs who need attention night and day, he made a complete circuit around the outside of the house. Every room spilled its light and its stories out in slanted rectangles onto the grass. The ones to the kitchen and the windows to the back living room. My office and our bedroom. Mr. Half said that to stand out in the yard and look in at his family and the different rooms of our home made him feel as though he was seeing everything with new eyes. He felt lucky and cozy and safe. And grateful.

I've since tried that exercise on several occasions and I think Mr. Half is onto something. Try it sometime. Look in from the outside and see what you have. Don't the colors look richer and the people even more precious than you thought possible? This is what others see. This is how rich you are when viewed through the eyes of others. Those dirty dishes still out on the countertop? It's just the remains of that fabulous dinner. That big stack of papers in your office? It's work. Remember those who have none and be grateful for yours. And that loud music that your teenager is listening to? Take the time to walk into his room and get him to share it with you. That moment won't come again in the same shape or form no matter how many times later on you wish that it would. I promise you'll walk back inside with a different view of your world...even the parts that drive you a little crazy. And just like George Bailey after he realized how glad he was to be alive amidst the chaos and uncertainty, don't forget to kiss the rickety newel post or give the the doorframe with the chipped paint a little pat before you close the door behind you.


Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I'm grateful that I am the first to say that this really touched me. We live in a time where it is all about what we DON'T have and this post is all about reminding ourselves about what we DO have. Thanks.

7:14 PM  
Blogger daysgoby said...

One of my favorite times of day is at dusk, when the porch-lights start coming on and people talk to each other in the twilight - thanks for this post!

8:17 PM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

When I was in college, I was a distance runner and my school was set smack in the middle of a residential area, not a commercial one. I would run up and down the streets surrounding the campus at twilight and experience exactly what you've so eloquently described. Living away from home for the first time and being a thousand miles from E, I experienced such LONGING when I'd pass by the houses, smell dinner cooking, and know families were settling in for a night that I would spending alone in the library. At that time, all my dreams were wrapped in those houses, in the ordinary lives unfolding there.

Loved this piece. So descriptive of an interior and exterior landscape.

3:54 AM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

I love that idea, of being outside looking in, seeing firsthand the beauty of what's yours.

5:03 AM  
Blogger monica said...

Until I read this, I had forgotten that, when I was a kid, I'd do the same thing — stand outside my house at dusk, looking in. The lights were warm and inviting, but I always thought to myself "what if this wasn't your house?" That weird, melancholy idea would make me glad that it was, indeed my home, and that I had somewhere to go. Thanks for the reminder.

Watching people in their homes = voyeurism
Checking out the decorating = foyerism

8:25 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

*Sigh* Isn't that the truth? Great post!

8:44 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

From what I can tell by the photo, what others see when peering into your world through the window is warmth, in a word. (Wow, that was a lot more Ws than I anticipated) Anyway, thank you for sharing! And also thank you for visiting MY blogworld. :)

10:13 AM  
Anonymous LetterB said...

Your post makes me feel even happier about moving into a house. I currently need binoculars and/or very high stilts to see inside my windows from the street. Lovely post.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

We are the only house in our neighborhood with big front windows, and apparently the only people that actually live in our house. When I drive home at night, having just escaped to the corner store for milk or something, and I see Jim playing with the kids by the light of a little old lamp in our big front room it makes me so grateful. I pity the people that get home when it's dark and the shades are drawn and it's dark in their homes...
I'm going to steal this idea and take a picture tonight. Your home makes me want to come over and sit around with some tea and chat and laugh at your boys and cute husband.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

I do this too. And I'm always imbued with a sense of warmth and gratitude. Every single time.
Lovely post and pictures.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Shrinking Violet said...

That is just beautiful.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Beautiful in both word and picture!

7:22 PM  
Blogger Ditsy Chick said...

I love to walk at dusk and night, I do take a peek as I walk by and I love to see how people decorate and live. I always wonder what people must think of my house and kids.

Very nice.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous jess said...

I loved this post. I have watched my family through the windows at night. It's an amazing feeling.

Thanks for sharing.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I love seeing all that wood in the front living room.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Katherine said...

Oh such a good post! So true and wow, that Mr. Half sure is something special.

6:40 AM  
Blogger CISSY said...

What a wonderful view. I've been missing out, and will have to walk outside tonight and give it a try. Great post.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Daxohol said...

Everyday I come home to see my husband and son waiting at the window smiling and waving. I loved it and relish it everytime.

What a wonderful post.

7:38 PM  
Blogger mrtl said...

Just getting around to reading the longer posts. I love this!

1:12 PM  
Blogger Plain Jane said...

I fondly recall night walks with my Mom on the pretense of stretching our legs...when what we really wanted to do is see how others decorated their living rooms. :)

11:47 AM  

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