Thursday, August 25, 2005
Sometimes all it takes to advance a few steps in the journey to simplicity is a change of perspective.
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite pastimes was to lie on the bed, look up at the ceiling, and pretend the ceiling was the floor of the room. I tried to imagine myself coming into the room, stepping over the door frame, and moving about the room in a whole new way. I could "look up" and see furniture hanging from the ceiling! I must have mastered this feat of imagination during my many required naps. (If Mama thought we were actually sleeping during those times, she was quite mistaken.) In another room, which we used as a bedroom at the time, we had one of those acoustic ceilings made of tiles with little dots all over them. Whenever I would find myself trapped in a nightmare, I would subconsciously try to wake up by forcing my mind's eye to see those dots, and all of a sudden I would really be awake, staring at the ceiling.
I think we spend a lot of time looking up when we are young. After all, we're little. We have to look up to see people's faces, to see on top of tables, to peer over the church pew in front of us, to watch the Christmas parade.
Now that I am an adult, I find myself mostly looking down. Now, there are perfectly good reasons for this. I am short, for one thing. Not quite as short as my sister, but short nonetheless. (Well, I'm two years older than she is, which she won't let me forget, and I have to remind myself that she too has shortcomings...oops, there I go again...sorry, Joy!) Because I am, as they say, vertically challenged, I find it easier to spot dog hair on the floor than cobwebs on the ceiling. When we clean the house for showings, I have to remind myself to look up and check the ceilings, corners, and tops of the walls for places that need dusting.
I also think my habit of looking down is a result of my tendency to trip over things. Lord knows I need all the awareness I can muster to compensate for my apparent neurological deficiencies.
This morning, I took our dog Babe outside before I went to work. It was dawn, still rather dark. While she was smelling some exciting scent in the yard, I looked up. It was an ordinary night sky, yet it was extraordinary in that moment to me. The glowing stars appeared as if they had been randomly flung across the heavens, but I knew that there were constellations and patterns, and I realized for just a few seconds that I was looking at the same stars people had seen countless years ago. For a few minutes I had forgotten I was in my yard in Maine, trying to keep Babe from unearthing a skunk somewhere. For just a few minutes I had glimpsed the awe-inspiring size of our part of the galaxy, and realized my struggles for simplicity were, in one way, totally unrelated to the scheme of things - and yet, in another way, they were joining my spirit to that of the universe. And the ceiling was the floor, and the floor was the ceiling, and they all blended together. I must really look up more often.