Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Letting space speak

Sometimes I feel like I go through much of life with my internal volume settings on low, when everything is muted. Then something nudges one of the switches, refreshes the defaults, and I realize, Oh that’s how it really sounds. Very cool.

This has been happening recently in regards to my surroundings, and how they impact me. We have put our house up for sale, so we have been spending a lot of time upping the “curb appeal.” Wondering whether we need to paint the front door bright yellow or just hang a wreath there to make it more appealing to prospective buyers reminds me how much space and place can subconsciously affect us all.

I think back to the big open newsrooms of my early years in journalism. A hundred or so newspaper reporters, copy editors, photographers, and newsdesk leaders all jammed into the same space, desks shoved together and phones ringing, typewriters clattering, and people barking orders. Plus the smoke, ashtrays, and unwashed coffee cups scattered among the piles of notebooks and documents. I loved the energy, the urgency, the immediacy.

Fast-forward to my years in corporate America where the sterile cubicles reminded me more of battery farming (and, indeed, one place did count the number of column inches we used to produce).

Now I work from home, with a corner office whose windows I have shaded to keep out some of the fierce Florida light and heat. But recently someone cracked the blinds wider than I usually have them, and I have been looking out to our beautiful rear parcel of land. And I have been reminded that I can say along with the Psalmist (16:6), that “surely the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” We will be sad to leave.

But it has also been interesting to visit prospective new homes, and realize how I have an immediate reaction to many of them, a gut feel that this fits or it doesn’t. Swapping notes with Marcia afterward is always interesting, as we try to examine why we reacted the way we did to what we saw.

Sometimes it’s about memory, a longing for the past, the security of the familiar. Sometimes it’s about desire, a hope for the future, the lure of the unknown.

But it’s all more than just buildings and rooms, facilities and features. We are being shaped by the different places we find ourselves in, by the way they maybe whisper or shout, from the vaulted Cathedral to the corner coffee shop. Space speaks to us, if we are willing to listen.

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