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The Wondering Switch

October 9, 2008

My house is full of big old windows. We’re in the process of replacing the draftier ones with newer models but there is only so much to be done so fast. So I tend to look outside those many windows and do my thinking. Where else would I think in an old farmhouse like this? The windows are just so obvious. It is truly, only natural, to look out the windows, gaze upon the land, spot a neighbor maybe, or a fawn and turn on The Wondering Switch.

My house is older than I can even imagine. The 1840s. Built sometime in the 1840s is all I know for sure. Fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, and then comes 1900 and it is still a hundred and whatever more years until this year, this month, this week, this night, this minute, this…second. I was born in the 1970s. That’s nothing.

So I sit in the house a lot in the quiet and look outside my windows. I think about all those years between when the house was put up and now. All those families, the babies, the lovers, the friends, the enemies. The additions, the demolitions. I imagine the dancing, the parties, the sad times, too and I can’t help but try to picture who else has lived on these planked and uneven creaking floorboards, under these thick-beamed ceilings, and behind these large, drafty windows overlooking big, old maple trees.

I think about the long summer days of 1926 and the long winter nights of 1911. The rainy mornings in April of 1843, when the house was still so brand now. Just twenty years ago, in the snows of February and the way people must have dressed back in 1888 when they walked in the door from outside, the rain falling or maybe just turning from rain to snow to sleet to sunshine. Or how mornings before school would have gone back in 1938. We all learn the basics about history when we’re in school, but it would take a series of books just to detail the history and all of the lives that have lived, and most-likely, even died in this one house alone. I’d like to be part of that book.

It didn’t take me long to realize lately, that I don’t want to learn more about the wars and all the trouble outside. I want to know about this land and this house that have now been added to my own family tree. How many family trees does the connecting go back? It could be just a few; it could be many, many more. A house like this isn’t just a real estate decision. It seems like it’s a commitment to live a certain way and a history lesson to be explored and valued in and of itself.

Turns out it’s a good thing I’ve got my windows to look out of as these ghosts of wonder weave about inside of me like knotting ropes getting more and more tangled up inside. Maybe there is a book in there waiting to help me untangle the mess. Ghosts to be discovered, for sure. There’s at least one I keep recognizing in the window, but maybe that’s only ‘cause these windows are mirrors in the autumn night.

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