Monday, March 28, 2016

A New Perspective

I killed all my houseplants when my first child was born. It wasn't intentional; I simply did not look up for months, and so the half-dozen plants perched atop the entertainment center and bookcase perished from drought.

Those were dark days, literally. Our first home was in a forest at the bottom of a ridge. The sun disappeared below the mountain from October to April, and we could count 100 redwoods just sitting on our porch.

Our first house surrounded by trees

And for the next decade, my gaze was low even in summer—on the diapers I changed, on the floors I cleaned, on the children I kissed goodnight in their beds, children who were almost always within sight as well as arm's reach. But as they grew taller and their world grew broader, my sight line shifted up a foot or two—to the speedometer as I drove my girls to school and dance and gymnastics and play practice, and to the classroom and stage and gym when they performed.

Our view expanded when my husband and I bought property in a two-acre clearing with an old orchard across the street, and a ridge rising behind it. For the first time in 11 years, I could see more than 30 feet from my kitchen window. The scene was even sweeter when our neighbors penned their pet cow Betsy in the orchard.

I could see Betsy amid the gnarled old pear trees when I sat at my computer to write sermons and stories, and the ridge rising behind her and a slice of sky above that. I could also see down the road aways. When my children were old enough to walk home from the bus stop in junior high, I waited for them to come into view, growing larger as they neared home. Later they got driver's licenses and I kept an eye out for their cars pulling into our long driveway.

Rose garden in our open space

For much of my life safety was the reason I scanned the horizon with the vigilance of a fire-spotter in a forest tower. I was on the alert for danger, ready to run or cry for help the instant I spotted trouble. Now my children are grown and the responsibility for their daily safety is no longer mine. Now I no longer behave like a lifeguard yelling "shark" and "riptide" each time the water ripples and someone I love nears the shore.

My husband and I moved to the Pacific Northwest under the dark cloak of the winter solstice to a house with a wall of windows that looked out onto a wall of cedars whose branches draped to the ground. By the time my husband's job prospects fell through, it was late February, and we hired a tree climber to limb up the branches. We didn't know what our future would hold, or what our new view would look like.

Bainbridge Island home trees before

Bainbridge Island home trees after

It turns out that both were expansive. Removing the low-hanging branches not only opened up our view of sky and sea and Mt. Constance in the Olympic range, it allowed our expectations and ideas about employment to branch out from the corporate trunk they'd been grafted to for 25 years.

Now, we're in business for ourselves renovating homes. After a year renting a house with incredible views of Puget Sound, the Seattle skyline, and the Cascade Range, we moved into a fixer-upper last summer that sent us straight onto a stepladder and out our south facing office window onto the roof in order to watch the sunset light up Mount Rainier.

We've been here nine months, and I've been tracking the many moods of Rainier. Often, it's completely obscured by clouds, but sometimes clouds ring it, with just the peak, and/or base exposed. On clear mornings I can see it backlit at sunrise while lounging in bed. What I can see is constantly changing. What remains unchanging is my curiosity.

Mount Rainier at sunrise from my bed!

"The landscape sustains me," I told my prayer partner today while were lifting up the uncertainty about what's to come in our lives. The gaze into my future is cloudy, but my gaze into the world from my home became broader today. We had some trees removed that were growing too close to our neighbor's home, and some others were limbed up, and more of the bay and peninsula and sky now meet my eye.

View from kitchen window before

View from kitchen window after

View from master bathroom before

View from master bathroom after

It was gray and foggy when the tree crew began their work this morning, but the fog burned off, the clouds lifted, and the sky became clear as they carefully dropped each limb to the ground. I stood at the windows, watching, waiting to see what would be revealed next.

Clouds lifting

Tree climbers in action

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