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Through the Picture Window

Written by my great-grandmother, Naomi Buckle in the mid-1970s. Shared with me by my grandma, Barbara (Buckle) Grimmett.

The scene itself is always the same. Only the colors are different, and the action somewhat, with the changing seasons. Like an immense canvas almost covering the east wall of the room, our picture window offers a view of the country landscape. The house, on a slight rise -- it can scarcely be called a hill even in this flat prairie country -- enables us to see for miles.

Now in the autumn, colors are shaded from old gold to deep brown, with contrasting greens, and a pale blue sky hovering over it all. Man-made objects are hardly noticeable in this scene of earth and sky. Only the criss-cross wooden fence surrounding the yard, the mailbox across the road and a farm house a mile away gleaming white in the afternoon sun, give evidence of human occupation. The geometric designs of color indicate that man has come, plowed, planted, and harvested. Then left the land to rest for a time. Only the new green of winter wheat across the road gives promise of continued growth. The pastureland beyond is a faded bronze, bordered by a red-brown strip of uncut maize.

Today it is a scene of peace. Tomorrow it may be one of black clouds, pounding rain or tearing winds. That is the way Kansas is. The Indians called it "Kansa - land of four winds." Today meteorologists admit that Kansas is a most difficult area to predict weather, because of constantly changing wind currents. It is that constant change which makes our picture window a source of continuing delight and wonder.

From almost any viewpoint, the sky dominates the picture. On a spring day fluffy white clouds drift along like sheep grazing on a field of blue. But by sundown they may change to little black funnels dancing along like little imps playing hopscotch in the murky sky. In summer the sky may become a cloudless bowl of brass, when plants wilt and animals seek shade and we draw the drapes on a scene of unbearable brightness. In winter, earth and sky can blend in a scene of blinding white fury, with savage winds whipping snow into man-high drifts to obliterate roads and fences.

Then spring comes again. Suddenly the snow is gone, and the icicles which hung for days along the eaves, like so many crystal bars keeping us in and the world outside, have dripped away into the soft earth. We see life come again to the land. A pale green veil creeps over the brown skeletons of trees. Dull beige changes to rich chocolate brown as a distant tractor turns the earth for spring planting. Sleek black calves scamper beside their mothers in the greening pasture. A cock pheasant struts across the lush green wheat field and disappears in a clump of weeds under the fence. Wild geese fly north in their perfect horizontal V formations. A flock of red-wing blackbirds perch along the telephone wire at exact intervals waiting the return of scouts looking for possible nesting places. The lawn in the front yard turns green again and roses along the fence burst into bloom.

But any time of year my favorite picture is at daybreak. I like to open the drapes wide to a starry sky, and settle in my favorite chair with a steaming cup of coffee, to watch the sky change from black to gray to light blue. A faint streak of pink appears on the horizon, expanding each moment and deepening in color until the whole sky seems aflame with red and gold. The color gradually intensifies near the horizon; the bright disk of the sun edges its way over the rim of the earth; clouds float away and day has begun.

With such a place for meditation one does not need a temple, or even an altar. The scene is like a silent symphony playing upon the senses with a thousand variations of light, shadow, color and form.

I can understand why city friends draw the drapes against the drab ugliness of their surroundings. But out here it is different. Picture windows and country houses go together, and drapes should be used sparingly if at all.

In counting our blessings, I place our picture window high on the list of assets. It is a non-taxable, non-negotiable investment, which pays dividends every day plus a frequent unexpected bonus. No, I wouldn't take a million dollars for our picture window!

I asked my grandma Barbara if I could share this piece by my great-grandma online. I'm hoping to get it published in print as well. Naomi's writing is so evocative, and this piece in particular made my eyes well up because of the connection that I, too, have to the place she writes about. I grew up going to my grandparents farm, where the old white farmhouse with the picture window sat in the north yard. I remember looking out that picture window myself. I made 'forts' out of dining chairs and flowered vintage sheets with my cousin and sister in that window's room. Like Naomi, we made memories there, too.

I never got to know my great-grandmother very well. She had developed dementia by the time I was old enough to remember her. I remember going to visit her at the nursing home, but she was often confused about who we were, and I was too young to really understand. It's been a blessing to get to know her a little bit through her writing, which her daughter - my grandma - has shared with me.

We gave our daughter Winslow the middle name Naomi. Though my great-grandma went by Naomi, it was actually her middle name as well - her first name was De Etta. I liked the idea of carrying forward my great-grandma's memory by giving her name to my daughter. Winslow and De Etta are separated by four generations, and of course, never knew each other. But I hope my daughter will one day feel a little more connected to her family, and be curious to know more, having been given the name of a woman who, by the time my generation is gone, will no longer be remembered by anyone living on Earth.

Naomi buckle, 1960s portrait
De Etta Naomi Buckle circa 1965

Though I never saw my great-grandma drink her coffee while watching the sunrise, I can picture the scene in my mind - what a beautiful ritual. One that I doubt many people do these days, for our world moves too quickly for private, quiet moments of contemplation, just watching the world come alive.

I hope that one day my daughter might feel the pang of nostalgia for a woman and a time she's never known just like I did when reading this piece. I hope you feel something from it, too.

- Morgan

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