This afternoon I accompanied my mother to her doctor’s appointment to have her bronchial problems evaluated and treated. As we sat in the tiny examining room waiting for her doctor, I gazed up through the window to my left. It showed the upper branches of some berry-laden tree with orange and yellow leaves against a blue sky. A large bird, possibly a blackbird, was feasting greedily and joyously on the bountiful fruit, toppling from limb to limb after every tasty mouthful.
As I watched and appreciated the view, I began to fantasize what it would be like to be confined to a bed, with only those branches visible from season to season. The medical building isn’t old, but the window itself is old fashioned, with a wide bottom pane you lift to let in fresh air. That combined with the yellowish walls with their institutional feel made me think of a hospital or rest home of decades ago. What if all I ever saw of the world again was that square of branches and sky?
Today the view was so lovely, it was as good as anything anywhere. But I thought of dismal slate-colored skies riddled with severe bare branches like cracks, as if the slate was about to shatter. I imagined staring out of that dismal window every day for weeks, watching desperately for the first signs of spring: a bud here and there, a bird returned from its winter migration. I thought of the dull winter view livened by an occasional snowstorm, the entertainment of gazing on the building accumulation of white on the branches as I snuggled comfortably under the blankets. I thought of windy April days making those branches jitterbug, of dark summer storm clouds pressing down against the leaves, of nighttime lightning flashes turning the sky glowing blue-silver through the black branches.
I wondered if there would be a point where a soul would be too sick or too old to want to leave the comfort of that bed and the reassuring dependability of that familiar view. Maybe one would decline a venture outside, with its heat or cold, with its strain of interacting with people and circumstances, in favor of just lying there and gazing peacefully up into the branches.
My mother coughed then, and soon the doctor knocked. I left the bird to his feast and turned my attention back to the concerns at hand.
NUDGE: Choose a window, any kind, anywhere—however, it should be one that allows you to gaze upward. Concentrate on that view and imagine it’s the only view you’ll see for a long time. Imagine how it would reflect the change of seasons, what activity you might survey daily. Perhaps there are no branches at all; instead you’re staring at the upper floors of a high rise, or a patch of sky where aircraft pass regularly. Your window could even be a basement window, and what you see are feet. Do you learn to recognize the same feet day after day? Can you read what kind of life those feet are taking their owners through?
You could be bedridden, incarcerated, committed, or in any situation that robs you of your choice to leave that view. Do you learn to love it or hate it? Why and how?