Today I experienced a beautiful music service at the UU in Fredericksburg. And while I could go on about the music and the musicians, that's not why I'm writing this. I'm writing this because of a window. A circular window above the stage area where the musicians were playing. My eye was continually drawn to that window or, more specifically, the trees outside that window. I took a little journey into the past.
For as long as can I remember, I have found staring out a window at trees a meditative experience. I remember doing it in the den in our last family home in Norfolk, Virginia. It was an addition, on the back of the house, and overlooked a sloped backyard that ended in a small creek. Directly opposite was an almost identical creek and another neighborhood with similar sloping backyards behind those homes. I would sit on the couch for the longest time, just watching the lives of people I didn't know, and stare at the movement of the trees.
And for some reason, it brought a sense of timelessness to me. No matter what was going on in my life, those trees stood through the seasons, dancing slowly or bending dramatically with the changes in weather. I would feel a sense of melancholy, knowing that I wouldn't always have the chance to sit in that spot and age along with those trees.
Many years later, a childhood friend's father died. After the service, we all went back to her family home, as her parents had never left the neighborhood. As we were sitting in the living room, telling and listening to stories about her father, our families, our growing up, our children, I found myself staring out the front window at the trees. My heart lurched, realizing these trees were the same ones I'd walked past, rode my bike (and later drove) past, stared at when hanging out with my friend in that very room. A huge wave of melancholy again swept over me, and yet also a feeling of immense gratitude.
As we move through our lives, there will be moments like this. Moments that impress upon us the timelessness and yet mortality of living on this earth. And as I sat in that room at UU this morning, listening to the lyrics of CSNY, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson, I stared at those trees and felt a deep calm. I returned to that couch in that house on Tallwood Street, and felt the deep sense of my place in the world that I had as a young teen all those years ago. All the stress and pressures of living dissipated as I watched the trees bend and dance to music they couldn't hear, yet somehow understood better than I could ever hope to. I felt again that deep sense of melancholy mixed with gratitude. And I smiled. What a gift to have that little journey back in time, and to reconnect with that young lady I was, on the brink of a life I couldn't imagine.