photo credit to Christian Hastings

photo credit to Christian Hastings

First off, this post is completely unedited; sometimes, you just gotta roll with it.

If you’ve been following along up to this point, you know we’ve relocated from the ‘burbs to the city. Not a high-rise block of flats overlooking busy streets choked with blaring horns and a mass of human-ants scurrying below as one might envision the view from a walk-up in Manhattan, but a third floor 110 year old historic building with an incredible view of the Confederate Memorial at Hollywood Cemetery out the front and the droning of an expressway to the right, banked by my school to the left. For a small city like Richmond, this is pretty peaceful a place to hang my hats. But I’ve been restless. Unsettled. At times, I feel as if the walls are closing in, attempting to squash me into some mold I’ll never fit. As I spill my thoughts onto the keyboard though, I’m not in there, even though its beautiful walls safely hold in slumber two of the many people in my life I cherish. I’m on the front porch, coffee and smokes (don’t judge) on the rail, bare feet up on the table, taking in the light breeze as I sit tucked in the cool nook of the brick and stone walls and rails that invite me to pull up a rocker, sit, and do nothing but watch life wander down the brick sidewalk in front of me.

So I do just that. I sit. I watch. I listen. I type.

I breathe.

More so that just about any other place I’ve lived in my adulthood, this neighborhood feeds my soul. There is such a diversity of life: college students just stretching their wings for the first time; young couples, perhaps beginning their forever journey together; sometimes, sharing the agony of a relationship whose time has come to an end too soon; laughter of friends gathered for no reason other than it is the end of a Tuesday; older residents who have spent their entire lives on the Hill here, and who will most likely rest eternally in one of the hills or bottoms that grace Hollywood. Then there are the homeless who live here, some choosing this life, others dumped into it rather tragically. There are stories here, all around, if I’m willing to open my eyes and ears to hear them. For a writer, this is potentially the mother-load of material passing by my windows and self, countless times a day and night. So why am I so restless?

This photo. This photo taken by my love’s son of his roommate, just this morning, as they made an early morning trip along the James just below them. The same James River that winds through boulders and fallen trees, crashes over the Fall Line, and lies still in pools along its shore. The same James that is a mere four blocks or so from where I sit now. The same James where Christopher Newport planted his cross on a small island below in 1604 in route to Jamestown to drop his weary passengers. The trees, light streaming through their summer greenery as the sun begins its daily march across the heavens. The birds, tiny sparrows sit on the rail not two feet away, heads twisting to see if I’ve brought them an easy catch for breakfast, or fighting for branch space in the overgrown boxwood blocking my view of the street.

It’s not enough to throw open my windows, sit on the sill with my laptop balanced precariously on my knees, although that has been a sanity saver. I need that ability to flow in and out of my spaces, surely as I need oxygen to breathe. When I’m flustered, or thinking, or bored, I need to step outside if only for a moment, to dig in the dirt, pick up sandpaper and a hunk of wood, or just sit on the steps with my eyes closed and feel sunlight. I can pray anywhere. But it is in the outside spaces that I can truly feel connected with my Father and at peace. The stresses of life dissipate, if only for a few moments, and allow me to recharge my own batteries. Don’t take me for an ungrateful brat, whining about what I don’t have. I don’t need acres of land and a huge home to avoid feeling compressed and squished. A studio apartment would be space enough if it had an outside deck or balcony. A place where I can watch my dog snuggle its bulky self against my leg and snore without feeling persecuted for daring to have a four-legged hairy companion is required. Noisy neighbors are even tolerable if I have “my space” (see prior posts about the home in Bon Air). But it’s that instant, brief moment of stepping outside the man-made into the God-created that gives me my peace.

Anyone have serenity to rent on the Hill in February?