Many years ago, when I was just a baby, this is what the view from our beach house looked like:
The porch has changed a lot since then. The old chairs and sofa got replaced with newer, fancy ones, white carpet was put down, all of the beach chairs and toys went into the basement, and the whole porch was insulated and re-paneled with beautiful maple. And while those changes are all very nice, I don’t totally love the Porch 2.0. You see, we had to install new windows with the double panes to keep the outside air out and the inside air in. But these windows just slide back and forth. They can’t be thrown open with gusto, and they don’t make you feel like you could fly out of the window, all the way down to the sea, and truly become part of the salty air and feather-light sand.
My favorite Psalm is Psalm 139. It reads,
“If I take the wings of the morning/and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,/Even there your hand will lead me/and your right hand hold me fast.”
So when I am at the beach, I want to become that part of the Psalm. And mostly, I do. I feel it when I stand at the top of the landing at seven o’clock in the morning after returning from a run or walk and the fog is just begining to rise. I feel it when I’ve finally worked up the courage to dive into the gentle surf. I even feel it when I’m in the kitchen, sitting on the floor with my back up against the refrigerator, drinking juice and letting the condensation from the freezer drip down onto my hair. But looking out of the porch window isn’t what it could be. You aren’t thrust into the joy and that Psalm. You’re just you on a porch, admiring a pretty picture.
It’s rather silly, feeling this way. I’m nostalgic from something that changed when I was eleven. But windows are important. They let you see what you are so nearly a part of, beckoning with promises of joy, if you would only stray a little farther, out the door and into the world.
I like windows that cry out, as Whitman does when he write this in Song of Myself:
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
But the new windows don’t have that passion. They slide with duty and purpose, never with jubilation. Opening them requires forethought, not reckless abandon. They don’t scream euphoria, and they never will.
I want the old windows back.