The furniture was arranged in place. Boxes were stacked in each room, ready for unpacking. I plopped onto the couch to rest a few minutes before plunging into the next phase of moving in.
I looked around at the bare, unfamiliar walls and wondered: What’s happened within these walls? How have many people have experienced life within this space?
Moving is so stressful and unsettling. You trade a familiar place for a different one that doesn’t yet feel like home. It looks different, smells different, sounds different, feels different.
And you wonder: What has happened within this space? What stories could it tell?
In my case, moving in had already made me a little familiar with the new place. As I walked up the stairs to the bedrooms for the first time, I noticed that a couple of the steps creak.
I wondered: How many times had some parent walked up these stairs holding a finally-asleep child, only to have that creaky stair awaken them? How many times had children tried to sneak down these stairs on Christmas morning, and they still remember the creak that awakened their parents?
How many lives were conceived within these walls? Had someone died here? How many times had someone laid in bed awake with worry, staring at this bedroom ceiling?
How many birthday candles were blown out during parties in the hardwood-floored dining room? How many special holiday meals were prepared in this kitchen, spreading a wonderful aroma through the entire house?
Sacred spaces where life unfolds
We tend to think of spaces as belonging to us, but they never really do. We share them with all those who came before us, those who live with us now, and those who will move in when we’re gone.
I think of them as sacred places, spaces where life unfolds in all its glory and challenges. These spaces remind us how our lives intersect, overlap and intertwine.
We occupy the same spaces as many others. They remind us of our commonality and our web of mutuality. Our lives are always interconnected on the deepest levels.
I think about it especially when I enter an old church and wonder what people have experienced here – baptisms, weddings, funerals. People congregated within these walls for some of the most profound moments of their lives.
Older houses make me feel that way, too.
I moved into my current house – built in the 1930s – a little more than two years ago. I rent from a couple who moved to this country 17 years ago and raised their daughter within its walls.
Before I spent my first night – an unsettling night in an unfamiliar space with its own creaks _ I did something to make it my own. I got my bottle of water from the lake where I swam as a child – my “holy” water — and sprinkled a few drops in each room.
Those drops baptized me into this space. I was now part of the lives of all who came before me and lived within these walls.
Interconnected on a deep level
A few months ago, the home owners visited to have me sign a lease extension. They brought their daughter, who is in junior high and was eager to revisit the place where she was raised.
She had a huge smile as she scurried to the basement and showed me the room that was her private play area as a young girl. Her parents took me to one of the bedrooms and pointed to the corner where they kept their daughter’s crib.
We stood there silently and smiled.
As they were ready to leave, their daughter walked past the refrigerator and noticed that I’d kept a “Hello Kitty” sticker she’d purposely left behind when they moved out. She told me how she acquired the sticker and why it was meaningful to her.
I told her she could take it home. She said no – she wanted Kitty to stay in this house.
I totally understood.
Every time I walk past the refrigerator, Kitty reminds me that I’m a temporary inhabitant of a sacred space, as are we all. Even when we leave, we always leave part of ourselves behind.
And there’s something very cool and connecting about all of it.