My Wobbly Bicycle, 159

Posted by on Nov 13, 2018 | 4 comments

It’s kind of flying. Not only are we three floors up, but we’re at the end of the building, with windows on three sides: fourteen, to be exact. We walked in here after years in our bungalow on 8th Street, and gasped. It still makes us gasp.  I think where you live, day by day, changes your sense of the world. Probably even your art.

From my desk I can see the old asylum buildings that haven’t yet been renovated, and the cars snaking along Silver Drive. I can see across the open field and, in this early morning mist, the lights at Meijer’s store. I can see some of the river of lights along Division Street and a long way farther.

If I get up now and look out one of the other bedroom windows, it’s quieter, paler. Big trees up close and the blessed stretch of wildness that still belongs to the asylum property. When there’s a full moon, the light in our bedroom is so bright it’s hard to sleep, but we don’t close the blinds. It begins over our heads and by early morning has moved to over my desk, a blue-white radiance.

In the kitchen, we look down on the semi-circular parking lot and the small garden in the middle that our neighbors lovingly care for. We chipped in for a new redbud tree this year to replace one of the huge ones that are dying one by one.

At 5:30 or 6:00, people will start arriving for their personal training and spinning class. They’re the slick ones, mid-career, I imagine, swinging their bags, bouncing, focused. The dog walkers come out next, older, lazier, their dogs doing all the bouncing. The owners are only out to let the poor dogs pee. But still, you can tell they like the morning mist, the quiet.

From this window, and three others, in the spring you can watch high school students all self-conscious and sometimes freezing in their sleek prom clothes, come to take pictures against our buildings. You can watch the dinner crowd, dressed up and heading for Stella’s downstairs. You can watch the owner of the flower shop downstairs carry armloads of flowers back and forth from her car.

Twenty percent of Americans live in apartments. Well, we own our condo, but it’s the same, sharing a building with others. Elevated. Confined, and yet cozy in that way.

We miss stepping out on the ground; we miss having a porch; we miss having our own flowers; we miss having bird feeders down at the level where the songbirds live.  If we didn’t have our lake cottage, maybe it would seem unbearable, to be so separated. But isolated? I think we felt less sense of community in our house with four walls. We knew our close neighbors, but only nodded at others.  Here, there’s a different sort of selection that’s taken place. We who live here have a sense of all being in the same boat, or castle, that is. All having the same aesthetic.

We’re on the top, just below the attic condos. Snow makes it look bleak, but it is truly a castle. The old asylum’s rooms require that we bend to fit them; we don’t get to shape them to fit us. Everything’s both old and new. New windows have to fit into old openings.

So, what are the subtle shifts in me, since we moved here?  I feel both more and less connected to the world of traffic, of weather. I can see it all from here, but it’s a bit like a movie. When I descend, the concreteness of rain, of snow, of cold, is a slap in the face. When we get back to the cottage in the spring, I’m running my fingers over the rocks and digging in the dirt, raking, anything to connect, connect. We are creatures of the earth, aren’t we? High living is unnatural.

Yet, we’re also herd animals. Since the beginning of time, we’ve been trying to balance those urges: separate or together. I have a hunch that our political choices have a lot to do with how we see ourselves in this way. Do I defend my territory or share it? To what degree can I have both?


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  1. Fleda: This really mirrors the conversations that Martha and I are having about how long we stay in this house that we love, or whether we move to some kind of a retirement complex. As you know, these are not easy decisions to make with advantages and disadvantages either way. As always, Thanks for your words.

  2. Fleda: This really mirrors the conversations that Martha and I are having about how long we are to stay in this house that we love or consider moving to some sort of a retirement complex. As you well know, these are not easy decisions to make with advantages and disadvantages either way. As always, thanks for your good words.

  3. Congratulations on your new home, Fleda. It sounds lovely, and I like seeing your pictures. It feels good to know where you live.

    • Hi Lindsey,
      We’ve lived here now for four years, so it’s not exactly new, but I just felt like writing about it. I wasn’t at RWW last year and I hear David’s retired from this job. I will probably do the same soon. Will keep thinking about it. It’s good to hear from you.

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