“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it." -Thornton Wilder, Our Town
I am looking out my window, not at the view above, but from my dining room table in Santa Barbara - a view that faces north, with the sun is coming up to my right, giving all the trees, plants and shrubs a gleaming whiteness. The crows and hummingbirds are in the midst of their usual routines, all of which center around our fountain, and it is magnificently quiet.
Ever since my husband and I made the decision to pack up our life - along with the decades of memories and experiences we've accumulated here in southern California - I've felt like Emily, the lead character in Thornton Wilder's Our Town. I've seen this play a few times, and it never fails to catch my heart in that way a heart can so easily seized by everyday wonders and miracles. (Even reading a brief synopsis of the play just now gave me goosebumps.)
In Our Town, the majority of the play has no set design to speak of aside from a table and chairs. The actors mime their actions - if a character is shelling beans, she acts as if she is holding a bowl and shelling beans - leaving it to the audience's imagination to fill in the empty spaces. But then, in the the third act, the stage comes alive (or at least this is how it was directed in the most recent production I saw.) Toward the end of the third and final act, a new set was revealed, one that had a kitchen table and chairs, a cabinet, a curtained window, a staircase, and a working stove that enabled the actors to fry bacon. After spending our entire time as audience members not actually seeing the details of what was being portrayed before us, our senses were suddenly accosted by the colors of a tablecloth, the sounds of sizzling, and smell of bacon.
Suddenly, we could really see and hear and smell and understand what had been (intentionally) missing from the previous scenes, an experience punctuated by Emily wondering, "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?"
It isn't that I feel like I have completely taken the details of my life in Santa Barbara for granted, it is more that, in knowing our time here is now coming to a close, I feel especially alert to all the everyday intricacies of my life that are about to become entirely new and unfamiliar - the view outside my dining room window, my route to the grocery store, the sounds I hear as I fall asleep, the kind of birds that gather in and around our yard. In just over two months, all of these details, and so many more, will require me to re-learn my everyday routines.
In the first episode of Transplant - my new podcast about home - I say I've moved more than forty times, a declaration I follow up with by saying, "And that's not an exaggeration." Turns out that was stretching the truth a wee bit, as I just did a tally, which shows that our pending move to Wisconsin is going to take my total number of moves to thirty-two. Which means I'm familiar enough with the routine of packing, unpacking, and nesting to know that that part of the process is actually going to be easier than the stage we're in now, which is all about offers and counter offers, home inspections, contractors' bids, and layers of negotiations related to all of it that take place between us and sellers and buyers and agents. Everyday we receive new information that requires us to re-adjust plans, dates, budgets, and schedules. Everyday we do our best to make a conscious choice to trust that all is unfolding the way it needs to. Every single day.