Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Open Window

Most Monday mornings, let's say ninety-nine out of a hundred, you do not breakfast at home; you are out to one of the local coffee shops serving the most robust and reliable coffee. Because your appetite does not kick in until about ten, the top priority most mornings is coffee first, then the potential of the coffee shop or your refrigerator for supplying breakfast ingredients.

Lunch is another matter. Lupe, the cleaning person, is usually done by noon. When you return, all the windows are open, adding an additional sense of freshness and ambiance to the studio. Depending on the time of year, all the windows except the one directly over your sleeping area are closed by late afternoon. Late Spring through mid Fall, this window remains open, allowing fresh air, muted conversations from the individuals working at the animal control center in the next yard, and the frequent conversations between firemen and women from Station Number 3 next door.

An open window allows freshening breeze, ambient noise, and, for want of a better description, cultural input, all of which have subliminal and active effects on you.  Not long ago, when you stepped out of the shower, you heard someone repeating the word "What?" This alerted you to the fact that you'd either been singing or reciting poetry in the shower, causing either animal control or fire personnel to question your meaning and perhaps your intent?

Being a writer and a teacher, you are comfortable with the fact of someone asking your meaning or intent. Why should having been in a shower make any difference? People hear questions, they answer first, then look around to see who was asking.

Being a person puts you in a different relationship with an open window. Back in your days of early eavesdropping, you spent considerable time at your window because of the potential for overhearing conversations from next door neighbors and from upstairs neighbors. Being an eavesdropping person is the equivalent of having a one-way ticket to some remarkable place you'd not visited before,

One of the most intriguing results of eavesdropping came back in your days as a runner,  experiencing the mindless enjoyment of the afternoon.  Soon, you were behind the two young women, who were less conversational but still talking about the blind date experience. 

You were entered in a ten kilometer race finishing at the crest of a rather steep hill on San Isidro Road in Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara. You lined up for the race to begin, standing behind two young women entrants, clearly in their mid to late twenties. They were engaged in a detailed conversation about the experiences one of them had on a recent blind date.

The starting gun was fired and the cohort of runners, about one hundred fifty of them, took off at a brisk pace. Comfortable where you were, you found your own stride, then settled into a mindless comfort zone until you realized you were once again behind the two young women. 

They were still conversing, although not as conversationally, about the blind date experience. Their dialogue, now punctuated by their own breathing rhythms, continued to interest you to the point where you adjusted your stride to keep within earshot or, with greater accuracy yet, within eavesdropping distance.

At the split for the five-kilometer benchmark, you heard times being called out, impressive times, which, you reasoned, must have been wrong. You maintained your pace until the next split, still listening, although the details had ceased to interest you as much as the fact that the act of keeping pace with these two young ladies had caused you to be on a pace that would have resulted in your best time ever for a ten-kilometer run. Thus the powerful attraction of eavesdropping through open windows of opportunity.

Individuals and writers need to keep windows open, even if the time of year becomes chilly and less than comfortable. Persons and writers must be on the constant lookout for windows of opportunity, through which random bits of cultural information may pass. You may, as in the case of emerging from the shower to the question of either an animal control person or a fire fighter, be part of a live demonstration of mixed messages, strange signals from outer space, or safety warnings not even intended for you. 

You may see or hear an individual whom you reckon to be trying to communicate with you, only to discover the message is intended for a person or persons behind you.  There are windows of opportunity that open when you are walking in heavily trafficked venues, on a campus, for instance, or in a mall, or even a parking lot.  An individual with intriguing posture and dynamic will appear to be waving at you or speaking for your benefit.  "Hi!" they will say with more presence and enthusiasm than an exclamation point can show, and you will respond, only to discover the greeting was aimed well beyond you.

There have been--and will be again--times when you were/are entirely alone, and in one form or another, the Universe will seem to be talking to you. As well, there will be times when you are walking along in some park or beach, yanked out of your reverie by an adult or two, leading a group of children, passing along to them some basic information that happens at the moment to have significant relevance for you. You will call such a moment Jungian or Cosmic. For the next ten or twelve minutes, you will believe in Jung and the Cosmos as never before.

There have been and will be times when you are in some museum or gallery, your attention wrenched from concentration on a remarkable work of art. You will become aware of a docent, lecturing to her or his entourage of museum goers, who are being given a canned lecture, nevertheless a lecture that will stay with you for the next ten or twelve minutes because it is so at odds with your own take on the work of art itself and the extent of the Cosmos, so far as you think you know it.

You not only do not know Jung or the Cosmos or the Universe, you do not know yourself nor the culture from which you have emerged.  You must keep at least one window open, for the fresh air of discovery and understanding.

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