Last Memorial Day, Dan and I were at the theater seeing a matinee when Dan’s phone began buzzing off the hook. He stepped out to check it, and came back in to get me. “We have to go home right now, Honey…the apartments next to our house are on fire and our house is in serious danger.” I remember my heart dropped to my toes….our dogs were inside the house. My clarinets were inside the house. Some things just can’t be replaced. We drove like maniacs, having a difficult time getting close to our house because of all of the firetrucks, police, and crowds of rubberneckers. We parked the car down the street and ran to our house, having to convince police officers that we needed to get inside to get our dogs out. They cautioned us to stay out of the main house, as if the wall of the apartments just twenty feet from our front door fell, our house would join in the fire. The blaze was out of control, and we put the dogs up in the guest house and stood on the top deck watching the smoke billowing everywhere, cinders flying around us, waiting to see if our home would be safe. Thanks to a recent spell of soaking rains, our trees that hung over the apartments were charred, but the fire did not carry to our wooden privacy fence or- blessedly- our five decks or home. Our animals were safe, my clarinets were safe, our home was spared.
The next day, the smoking hull of the apartment buildings was all that remained, many peoples’ lives changed in an instant. It could have been us…but it wasn’t. It was difficult to watch as residents came to see if there was anything left to salvage, picking through the charred, unrecognizable piles, their faces etched with sadness. My heart ached for them, the one saving grace being that no one died or was seriously injured during the fire. Months passed, and the weather continued to beat down what was left of the apartments, and still they stood, a constant reminder of sorrow. Dan and I did our best to clean up nails and things in the driveway that we shared with the apartments, and we trimmed burned branches and tidied up the best we could- just because. Somehow it made us feel better to do something healing to the sad place.
Fast forward about seven months…three days ago, to be exact. I received a text from Dan at work, “Honey- they are starting to tear down the apartments – finally!” We were both excited- the eyesore was depressing and also attracting the wrong people and wildlife to our peaceful part of the ‘hood. When I went home, I couldn’t believe how fast the men worked with their big machinery to methodically take down the structure and haul it away. It should be done in a couple of days…a welcome harbinger of healing for our old neighborhood that has seen its share of fires and challenge over the years.
I noticed another change beside the welcome sight of the apartments disappearing- our house began to glow as light that had been blocked all these years by the tall structure now poured into our windows. I had never realized how dark our home was until I saw it filled with this gift of sunshine. Our views increased tremendously with every section of the apartments that came down, and we are seeing our home and our neighborhood in a whole new light- literally. I started thinking about the metaphor of letting light into our homes, and into our hearts and minds. Sometimes I don’t realize that darkness has crept into my life- negative thoughts and words, letting myself get too wrapped up in work and everyday problems, not taking the time to notice those important little things that really aren’t little at all.
I made a point to let some light in this week. Here are a few of the gifts that came my way because of it:
My students with our guest artist, Spanish clarinetist Oskar Espina-Ruiz. How lucky I am to work with such great young people. The look of awe on my freshmen students’ faces as they studied our guest artist’s music after his virtuosic performance.
I am grateful for these reminders of all the good in my life. I hope that you let the light flood into your life every day. Look for the beauty and the good that comes in the most simple ways. What a difference a little shift in perspective can make…it will literally change your life. With the light comes gratitude… With gratitude comes joy.