window cleaning.


He sat hunched up on a low, yellow, wooden bench, holding the tip of his nose between two curved fingers in a way that he had. His blond hair was a little too shaggy, and a lock fell across his forehead and over one eye. “I’m a window cleaner,” he said.

“A window cleaner and a musician?”

“No ‘and.’ Music is my window cleaning. If I weren’t so sick of it, I’d quote the Bible. You know that bit. Through a glass darkly. That’s how people see. It’s as though nobody was out in the world. You know what I mean? We’re all shut up in rooms. Everybody. And nobody can ever get in to anybody else’s room. That’s because we’ve got bodies. And the only way we can have contact with other people is through the windows in our rooms. You get what I mean? And some people have more windows than others. And everybody’s windows are dirty. So there have to be window cleaners. I’m one. At least maybe I will be one someday. That’s what I want to be.”


“The trouble is that my own windows need cleaning.”

“Do they?”

“Sometimes I read things and I can see out better. Usually it’s music (you must play for me). Or a great actress. Or a painting. Usually I just get drunk, so I can forget I’m locked up all by myself in a room and it’s foggy outside . . .” -Madeleine L’Engle, The Small Rain

The summer races by, already the first week of July. Full of, mostly, nothing. I have read and napped, watched soccer and Friday Night Lights, waged war against fruit flies and made chicken salad. Already I have wasted too much time on things that might have been or things that might come to pass instead of focusing on what it means to be here and now.

I am a list-maker, a recipe-follower. I like clean, straight lines and well-defined boundaries. But those are not necessarily things that help me include other people in my life, not if they aren’t on my list of things to do: return the email, make the telephone call, take the time. It is hard to remember this when work is stressful or I’m not sleeping well or it’s just plain cold and rainy outside, but the phone calls and the coffee and the actual conversations are things that make the here and now better. I am comfortable getting lost in a book or a great song. It is easier to hide behind the pages of a novel or notes of music. It is especially easy to hide behind written words that I can control.

I think I need help seeing answers, why things work out the way that they do. So that I can tally up all the columns and make it all turn out right. But I should know better: Sometimes we get answers, sometimes things make sense, sometimes we learn from our experiences. But often, we are simply left with our questions, to decide whether we really mean what we say about faith being the evidence of things unseen.

I would do better to spend my time seeing other people, letting them be complicated and laughing with them. To get lost in a rambling conversation over dinner and maybe a glass of wine.

What do you do to keep your windows clean?

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