This morning I woke up in a new house. Well, the house isn’t new as such but it is ‘new’ to me. No, I haven’t moved but I am house sitting again. I like doing that, as it gives me both perspective on and appreciation of my current abode, as well as providing a kind of holiday. I still commute to feed the horses and drop in at my place and so on, but each evening and sometimes in the day and always in the morning, I see the world in a different light. (Literally!)

This house has a living room that would contain my entire apartment, a very narrow cat, and a stunning view of the majestic red rocks of Sedona outside the living room/dining room windows. It is one of the most beautifully artistically dressed places I have been. Murals on the inside walls, little lizards, snakes and cats that are actually rocks inside and outside, clusters of color that emerge from a garden perfectly in tune with the red rock world around it.

It is also a welcoming place. In spite of the height and size of the rooms and plethora of beautiful dishes, books, towels and art, I feel relaxed and safe here. I have been in places that are so ‘gorgeous’ I cannot breathe.

And there is a television! I don’t have a tv (haven’t for 4 years now) but I do like when I am around one. Actually, for about 30 minutes and then I am exasperated. I cannot handle the advertisements and (after years of not watching) I am stunned by what is sold and how! I also have memories of what I used to watch and search for those programs and then am irritated all over again – have I changed so much?

Really, what I do seek out is Public TV. Hopefully there is something from the BBC. Is it usually beautifully produced, requires some brain activity, and no-one is screaming at me every 7 minutes to buy something!

So there I was last night. Did laundry in the same house where I was eating, gasped at the beauty of the sun casting its late afternoon rays over these red rocks, and had a brief conversation in passing with the wary shadow of a cat. And I switched on the PBS news.

Beautiful brown eyes, stunned faces, thin limbs and helicopters dropping packages onto reaching hands below. Pakistan under water. I sit on the thickly carpeted floor, a glass with iced juice in my hand, and cannot look away. I have heard this news on the radio and read about it in the papers (online NYT). But I had not seen it, heard the voices coming from visible faces, begun to grasp the enormity of the loss, damage, fear, disbelief and exhaustion.

There is not even space for my tears within the searching for a way to let this knowledge come into my scope of the world. When it ends, this segment and the interview with the serious man who is charged with coordinating the relief effort, I somehow make it outside.

The last of the sun is cutting a swath across the ancient spires of these rocks which have been here for eons. I know that this moment of time in the unfolding of humanity is barely a blip in the wholeness of the story. I know that there is probably nothing that I can do for these people in the chaos on another continent. I know that next week, next month, next year there will be another mind-jarring natural event, let alone the shockingly violent damages foisted upon man by man.

But still the question: how to live my life, with integrity, knowing what is happening across the other side of the world?  Or knowing what is happening in my valley? I cannot ignore it, I cannot shrug it off, I cannot medicate myself away from the knowledge.

Connecting to the world, letting it in, going out to meet it, I have woken up in yet another new house. I will explore its corners and take care of the pieces that I can. (Here I water the plants, feed the cat, there I can send money.) I will not drown in the horror, helplessness and despair. These are people first and foremost. So, I will also admire the beauty in that house over there, because even in the midst of the horror in Pakistan, there is beauty. The courageous people who saved their children, the pilots in their military uniforms who are hovering over barely visible villages, the shy almost smiling children behind the interviewee, offer some light in this darkness.

I will pay attention to that house over there, write about it, talk about it. I will include the images of the people and places in my morning prayers, and stay open for the next chapter. Most of all, I will accept that this is not my story, my house. I am a visitor there. My responsibility is to this place, where I am now.

I am between physical houses and in nomadic mode, so I am used to being housed as it were, without walls, a more porous way of life than some. I am afforded views and experiences that being permanently shuttered in one house could limit.

I watched the news again tonight. The numbers are staggering, the water forever, and the people breathtakingly beautiful in the midst of this filthy event. The connection between them there and me here is not as tenuous as I had thought it might be. As I sit here, I float somehow to their house.

Suddenly, I get it. We are homemakers of the world itself, but we do not own that home/house. Even if you ‘own’ your house, we are all really only house minders, living in different rooms of the largest mansion you can imagine, at different times. We get to go from room to room as far as possible within our wing of the house. Sometimes we do travel to another floor or wing. We can hear the sounds coming from the rest of the house, sometimes see smoke rising above the roof line of one of the far away wings of the mansion. We don’t want it to fall down, so offer what we can to help. But we don’t have to take up residence there.

I am grateful for the temporary places I live, for the friends who invite me to house sit for them. I will transmute each nurturing experience into courage to visit other houses. It may be vicariously through the TV or I may actually walk into an opening to house-sit in a completely different wing of the big house for a while. Either way, I know we are all in the same house in the end. My responsibility is to embrace the entire house while taking care of the tiny corner in which I find myself, wherever that is.

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