Moments of Bliss

Reflections on the views of my many homes over the years

This morning my view from a corner chair is focused on a willow tree. Susan planted it at least five years ago, at which time it was too small to be seen from where I am writing. Its branches move in the wind in concert with two larger neighbors, unrelated except for being trees. This is home for all of us. Watching them reminds me that the views from our windows are my favorite of any home in which we have lived.

Our first home was an apartment in California. The views were of concrete walls and walks. From the kitchen, we could see our building’s trash bins. The trash bins became my home one evening as I sat on top of them howling at the moon. Proof that I needed to pace myself at family’s gatherings.

My new in-laws, unlike my folks, provided a lengthy cocktail hour, dinner with red and white wine, followed by dessert and dessert aperitifs. Sitting astride the trash, I could have been in advertising. I was truly a Mad Man.

Four years later we bought our first house in Glendale, Calif. The backyard was a swimming pool. The views on either side were to stone walls that separated us from our neighbors. The front view looked onto a patio and the street. In between sat a lawn, so small I could cut it with a push mower.

A year later we moved to Minnesota where we lived in a new development in the country. Most months our views were dominated by snow. Neighbors were further away than in California, but as we had almost no side views, it little mattered.

In Iowa we built a house on several acres of land. Few lots had trees, but ours had two black walnuts, rarities in themselves. They were situated on a huge lawn that took me 10 hours to cut with a walk behind power mower.

After once or twice of that, I bought a John Deere rider. It got caught up on a fire hydrant’s hook up valve and lifted the Deere’s front wheels clear off the ground, ripping a piece of the fiberglass chassis.

In Massachusetts we again chose country, but this time lived in the woods. The driveway to our house was tree lined and lengthy. I learned that I agreed with Susan in preferring home locations with more light.

Then too we had a neighbor who had pledged to never talk to anyone in our house. Before we moved there, he fought it being built. He felt our lot was his front yard.

Each of our homes have added to my understanding of what a home should be. I started out thinking they were just a place to sleep, but now I think they are much more. I need a place of retreat. Home rewards my hermetic side.

In New Hampshire I have treasured moments alone at home. I could be very productive with only a dog or cat for companionship. At least for short moments. I still want the company of a best friend spouse and lunches with people I enjoy, but I covet time to mar the whiteness of computer pages with the thoughts of words.

My hope is that my continuing meditative hermetic ponderings will connect me to the universe. In this house I have connected with my spiritual side. Not a true hermit, I want for an audience, both human and divine. Time alone is but part of the equation of bliss.

Bob Ritchie is pastor of Bennington Congregational Church and a regular contributor.

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