Windows are funny things. Usually designed to blend into a structure, they are nevertheless most apparent when they are missing. Their strength lies in their invisibility. If we walk into a room that has no windows, we notice immediately. What we actually notice first is that the quality of the light is such that we feel "off." The light may feel artificial, forced, or just not strong enough. We look around for the windows and wonder why they are not there.
And windows give us a glimpse into the "beyond." Into what exists outside of us - that's outside of our own house, our own dimension.
Windows let in the light. And although we don't actually see the light itself, we see because of and with the light.
Windows also let in the air, like those sweet spring breezes that flow into a room and brush away the stale winter corners. Or the sunny summertime winds that offer relief from high temperatures.
And windows are terrific spiritual symbols for glimpsing "beyond the veil." For reminding us that there is another world around the corner and over the next hill, as C.S. Lewis was fond of saying. But this new world is not just "out there." It's also "in here," inside, deeper, further in. Has an arrangement in a window ever caught your eye? Stopped you in your tracks as it whispered to you of new possibilities and adventures?
In my life, there have been 3 windows that were momentous to me. They spoke volumes silently while they thundered visually.
The first window I encountered in a small shop window in a little town in the south island of New Zealand. I was only about 12 or so. I was at the top of a hill that ran down to meet the sea, and I happened to glance into this store window as I was walking by. It was overwhelming. What I saw was an ode to strawberries. Strawberries as far as the eye could see, in every detail and cranny in the small space. Falling in bunches from the ceiling, overflowing out of raised pedestal china dishes, interacting with pink and yellow roses. It was an overwhelming tribute to the fullness of life and fruitfulness and creativity. Two cookie tins in particular caught my attention. They were quite simple - just two black cylinders of different sizes, decorated with strawberry vines. But as I stood there, breathing in the salty sea air, mixed with that curious freshness peculiar to New Zealand, I knew I had to take those tins with me. I wanted to be part of the song in that window, in the life in the sea air. To create a life as full and overflowing as what I saw in that window. I dashed in and bought those tins. They are still sitting in my kitchen today, reminding me of that day, that vision and my inspiration.
The second window, coincidentally enough, was a Hallmark window. I worked at a Hallmark store during High School, and happened to pass the same store again in the mall a few years later when I was home from college. Perhaps it was the freedom of summertime and being finished with classes and papers and finals that made this window speak to me. It was a picnic scene displaying a new line of plastic picnic cutlery. Even though the window was located in a dim and dreary mall (that was torn down a couple of years later), that window display bespoke times of freshness, freedom and sweetness. It was an expression of time well and richly spent. A sabbath mentality where one plans for and enjoys time away but time together. Together with family and friends and together with nature, being plopped down in the middle of it, in fact. It represented a harmony of life that was just lovely. I recall that window frequently when I am explaining our need for the Sabbath Day to the families in my program.
And the final window I discovered in Downtown Disney, Orlando. I was there for a Family Faith Formation conference, so my mind was full of plenty of inspirational talks, powerful Liturgies and wonderful, practical speakers who offered ideas and statistics on "where we are and the needs of right now." If you have never experienced Disney as a physical place, then you should know that no one captures visual imagery as well as they do. The imagination and over-the-top, life-size displays have to be seen to be believed. Since the conference was in early January, Downtown Disney was still decorated for Christmas, which in itself lent meaning to the displays. But in every store this particular January, there was a single theme. Each window displayes an oversized mannequin of one of the princesses, from the torso up she was one doll. But each of the skirts of the princesses were made up of small, individual sized princess dolls. So for example, from the waist up it was one Cinderella, but the waist down were hundreds of smaller Cinderellas. all arranged in expanding concentric circles to form a skirt shape. It was simply fascinating - there in front of me visually expressed was what we had been discussing at the conference. The needs of the body of Christ, here in the windows expressed as both a unity, a oneness, and yet also made of individuals. Further, here was an apt symbol of the feminine face of the Church - the bride. Old fairy tales like Cinderella existed long before Disney made them into movies, and they were always intended to be symbolic and instructional to the listeners.
So naturally, Hallmark's ornament series "Christmas Windows" has aways been of particular meaning to me, both because of the symbolic meaning of windows themselves as well as my own personal experiences. What about you? Have you ever encountered any special windows that opened to new vistas?