The Fading Peony
There is a house about five blocks from me that sits at the intersection of a sleepy side street and one that is heavily traveled. I walk or drive past this house pretty much every day. It is a simple, quiet, one story house with a bay window that faces the intersection of these streets. Each time I pass it, I remember a period of years when there was a life that sat on the inside of the bay window. This is what drew me to notice the house more than its exterior. The life was an elderly man in a wheel chair who wore a white shirt. When I drove by in the morning, he would be there. If I walked past with my dog in the early afternoon, he would be there. When I took one of my kids to a practice or made a quick trip to the grocery before dinner, he would be in the same spot peering into the world that existed around his property. For at least two to three years, this man was a permanent fixture and the only thing visible in the right side of this broad window. Seeing him became normal. Until the day he wasn't there anymore.
I wondered, and still do, if this man lived alone. I wondered if he had a caretaker. I wondered if he had a family. I wondered if he had visitors.I wondered if he was content. I wondered many things as I saw this man sitting alone morning, noon, and night. But my wonders meant nothing. This elderly man's situation was none of my business. In reality, what this man was viewing and from where was most likely by choice. His home and this window possibly meant everything to him and was all that he needed in this season of his life.
He saw parents push baby strollers.
Grade schoolers and high schoolers walk to school. Commuters rush to the train.
Bikers that forced these speeding cars to slow down and creep toward the center line.
Leaves turning brown and flying down.
Ice paralyzing the earth.
The brilliance of a sunset sky.
The shadows of the moon...
From the comforts of his home and through the clarity of the glass, he undoubtedly saw things that some people complain about, don't care about or are too busy to notice at all. Did his viewing stand offer enough stimulation for an elderly person? Who am I to judge. Was his home the best place for him to be? Who am I to comment. His home; a place where he planted himself, grew his roots with the elements that fed him and helped him uniquely live while breathing in the images of activity as his days were growing fewer.
My mother reminds me of this man. She often is found sitting at her kitchen table peering out the bay window before her chair. What she observes through it each day brings her the simple joys that only she can know and understand. Before her hands and eyes, she has her own sparkling snow globe accompanied with the beautiful aria only she can perform.
The young morning sun.
Flowering plants living.
Cardinals and finches feeding.
The dove visiting.
Mother Mary keeping company.
Butterflies flying free.
The occasional telephone ring to interrupt it all...
To someone else, this may appear lifeless. Not enough. Just another ground covered with wasted seed. Yet to my mom, like any elderly man or woman who finds satisfaction within their home, it offers the promises of life. The abundance of simplicity. Hope. Through her window, my mom recognizes the generous gifts nature offers which feeds the spirit within her.
The transparent window is a personalized snow globe of our reality. The scene we view, no matter how old we are, invites us to ponder and savor what is most important to us individually and makes us feel alive and at peace.
The elderly man I never met had his.
I sit with my mother by hers.
We can learn from any aged person who rests in the secure vase of his or her own home as petals of their existence gently fall away from their bloom...
Truly, the seasons of life are all fragile.
So real and raw and delicate.
Like that of a beautiful and vibrant peony that will inevitably slowly fade away.