Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Own Desert Places

There's just something about an untenanted house that makes me hesitant to walk away, close the door and turn the key. It seems ridiculous, but as I lock the door, it's as if I'm abandoning a living being. I can almost hear the boards sigh in loneliness.

Driving down the street, no one would know today was different from yesterday in this old house. The vinyl still needs a good pressure washing. The roof needs the winter's leaves swept to the ground. And the trash cans wait, as usual, at the curb for tomorrow's pick up.

As far as the world is concerned, nothing has changed. But whereas yesterday, this house held two beating hearts and all their earthly possessions, today it is empty.It's the emptiness that makes the sadness wash over me, causing my shoulders to droop and my jaw to clench in reaction to emotions I don't want to feel right now.

The hollow echo of footsteps as we walk from room to room. The overly loud click of the light switch. The large open spaces for my children to run through with glee. These are the reminders of what is gone. Of who is gone.

Empty houses always affect me this way.

This afternoon, I remembered the poet Robert Frost was also disturbed by the vast emptiness he saw...not in a house, but in the universe and in himself. The concluding stanza of his poem "Desert Places" reads, "They cannot scare me with their empty spaces Between stars--on stars where no human race is. I have it in me so much nearer home To scare myself with my own desert places"

In other words, I've got it all wrong. I can feel sentimental about the old memories. I can mourn the ones who are gone. But no matter what it symbolizes, no matter what memories it holds, an empty house is still just that--a nonliving box composed of boards, nails, and sheetrock.

The emptiness I should be worried about? The kind found within the human soul.

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