I never had the experience before and now that I’ve had it, I hope to never have it again. It’s such a simple thing, I just didn’t expect the feelings that came with it.
We decided after living here for 12 years to have the outside of our house painted. We selected the colors, got the appropriate architectural committee approval and looked forward to the change. The painters arrived on time and began their preparations.
My husband, Oscar, and I went about our chores of the day, when suddenly I noticed the house seemed darker than usual. Quickly checking my weather app I saw the day was projected to be sunny – no clouds, no rain. Then I slowed down and looked around.
To my amazement, the painters were busy taping what looked like brown wrapping paper over every door and window in the house preparing it to be spray painted. Oscar and I stood silently in the living room as the outside world disappeared from our sight.
Of course what they were doing made sense. We have lots of windows and doors. That’s why we bought this house. And the view from almost all of them is what we call conservation tropical paradise. We just didn’t realize how dependent we are upon what we can see outside until it was temporarily gone.
Sitting down to a dark brown lunch instead of being among the dancing palms and burgeoning spring greenery was a downer. It felt so eerie with nothing to see but the inside of our house and each other.
We began to talk about how much in this life we seem to take for granted and how often we don’t miss something until it’s gone. We both suddenly realized what a critical contributor to our feelings of happiness and well-being sunshine is. Grass is. Trees and bushes are. The sky, the clouds and the invisible wind are.
We turned on all the lights in the kitchen and living room but that didn’t help at all. We felt unrealistically imprisoned by the darkness. And I found myself thinking about how unbelievably hard it must be to be in jail with little or nothing to look out upon.
From 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. our house was draped in darkness. And when the painters were done and the windows and doors were finally uncovered, it was night and the sun had gone down. When we awoke the next morning, both of us reveled in the light pouring into our bedroom and suddenly understood how much nature contributes to the joy of being alive.
The next day as we sat at the sunny kitchen table over breakfast and coffee and watched the trees dance Oscar and I talked about how it felt to not be able to see the outside world from inside our house. The words eerie, depressing, grim and cheerless came up. We talked about how important it is to be able to see, feel and understand the life going on around us.
It was worth the temporary loss of light to see the house look so fresh and lovely. But now we have a new respect for the contribution and comfort that windows and glass doors provide. I’m glad for the experience. It taught me to value what I had taken for granted. Covering up the windows opened up a clearer and more appreciative view of the world. I realized that for me the quality of life is enhanced by the quality of light.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”