January 03, 2006

New View

I woke up one Sunday morning and looked out the window on the south side of my house. The south side is the side I pay least attention to, the side I notice the least, because it's the only side that has no exterior door. I even forget what's there sometimes. On this day, for whatever reason, I pulled back the curtains to remind myself of what was on that side of the house.

Right away, I knew that something wasn't right.

I went outside to investigate. Daylight was just beginning to penetrate the morning fog and mist. I walked around the house, stopping at the tire tracks in the dark, damp ground. Those tire tracks have been there as long as I can remember. I saw the interplay of light and shadow caused by the sun's rays filtering through the dissipating fog and passing through the leaves in the trees above.

Just then I noticed, about twenty yards to my right, a bus pulling away. Strange, I thought; I've always ntoiced the tire tracks, but never knew what put them there. I never knew that a bus stopped here, right beside my house.

As the bus disappeared, I saw a well-dressed, middle-aged couple walking across the street. They were heading for the church. Great! I thought. (A pastor always likes to see new faces in church.) But where were they coming from? They didn't get off the bus; the bus stopped on this side of the street.

With my eyes I followed the path on which I imagined they'd come. And there, right across the street from my house, I saw something stranger still: a shopping center, with a grocery store, bank, gas station, In-N-Out, and a large parking lot. The center was still under construction, but was nearing completion. The parking lot was already paved.... Incredible, I thought; the last time I looked, that was a rice field!

I looked beyond the shopping center. I saw hundreds of houses in various stages of construction. Some were already finished and inhabited. By this time the couple I had seen was already inside the church, and I realized that they had come from one of those new houses.

I tried to make sense of what I saw: a bus, a shopping center, new houses. I didn't know whether I should weep or laugh; I felt like doing both. I didn't know whether I should mourn or celebrate; I didn't know whether I should be scared or excited. I was confused. My rural community no longer existed. The peacefulness that comes from living in the country was gone. And yet, I realized, soon I'd be able to walk to the store and bank, new people would be coming to church, and best of all, there was going to be an In-N-Out next door!

I placed both my hands on top of my head, trying to figure this all out. I couldn't decide if this was good or bad; all I knew was that it was different. The world that existed around me, and the world within me, had changed overnight. The idea of "home" which I had constructed in my mind over the past six years of living here had been fundamentally altered. Indeed, reality itself was now different, and I knew it was going to take me awhile to adjust to this brand-new world in which I was now living.

Then I woke up---for real this time. I threw back the covers, ran to the window, pulled back the curtains, and looked. There was no shopping center, no houses, and, I'm sorry to say, no In-N-Out. There weren't even any tire tracks in the ground next to the house; just the same trees, country road and rice field that were there when I went to bed the night before. Everything was the same.

Or was it? The day before I had this dream, I had really taken the bus, from East Nicolaus to Sacramento. Until recently, I didn't know there was a bus one could take to Sacramento. Buses, after all, belonged in the city, and I lived in the country; at least, that was my assumption. In my mind, there were definite boundaries between "urban" and "rural" life. Discoving that a "city" bus stops in East Nicolaus, and actually taking that bus, blurred those boundaries for me. Two worlds that had been very separate in my mind had come together. As a result, my concept of reality had been altered. The dream I had was my subconscious mind's attempt to understand this new reality.

I'm now beginning to understand that the division between "rural" and "urban" is just one of the many assumptions in my mind. I have many other assumptions about what I believe to be "real." What if I allowed those assumptions to be challenged as well?

For example, I believe that more money leads to more happiness. I know, I spend a lot of my time trying to convince myself and others that money does not equal hapiness, but I don't think any of us are ready to actually believe it. I think the world would look a lot different if we did.

I believe that it is better to receive than to give; don't you? (Be honest.) How would our lives and our world change if we REALLY believed what we so often say, that it is better to give than to receive?

I believe that the world is governed entirely by Newton's laws of physics. You know, all that stuff you learned in school about inertia, momentum, gravity, and the conservation of energy. A good education taught me these laws, and I observe them every day. But what would happen if I really believed in something that contradicted those laws---that faith can move mountains, for example?

My world, at least as I perceive it, is changing. Long-held assumptions are being challenged. (Amazing what a bus ride can do for you...) I feel as if I'm on the verge of discovering many new realities. Yes, it's a strange trip I'm on, but it's also very exciting. Care to join me?

I wrote this essay for the South Sutter Connection, our monthly, all-volunteer community newspaper. I would have posted this yesterday, but storms knocked our power out. It's back on now :-).


Katherine said...

Great article! I was having a really hard time imagining how an In-N-Out could be built unnoticed. I really like how the dream illustrated the permeability of the lines between "urban" and "rural."

Anita said...

Very thought-provoking, Danny! Thanks for stirring my brain!