For as long as I can remember, I have drawn strength and exhilaration from a beautiful view. In seminary, on long hikes, as everyone swiped beads of perspiration off their foreheads and pushed their aching legs up the rocky winding trail, I’d linger on the edges of the paths, feeling tiny and insignificant in the most awe-inspiring way, as I inhaled the crisp air, the mountains rising before me circled by a ribbon of purple and white, touching the tips of the clear blue heavens with their serrated crests. I took in the tinkling sounds of the babbling brooks, looked for patches of lush greenery amid the pointed grey stones.
I wanted to stand there forever, letting the sun’s rays shine down on me and this perfect panorama.
I loved visiting my Israeli grandmother in her small, cozy living room, with its slightly musty smell and muted sepia and beige colors. I’d pass the polished baby grand piano in the center with the old pictures lining its ornate cover, making a beeline for the two wide windows. I’d fling them open and close my eyes for a moment as the soft breeze whipped gently at my face. Facing me was the silent dusty valley, the steep hill, and the endless patterns of clumps of earth and sandy pebbles, leading far down into darkness that blended with the thick velvety sky.
The flickering lights of the city beyond twinkled with the stars, the wispy forms of mountains in the distance surrounding it all in a breathtaking halo. It filled me with peace and serenity to breathe in those sights.
Across town, in my cousins’ home, I would slide apart the wood framed double doors and step out onto the long narrow porch, its’ railings lined with white boxes filled with chrysanthemums poking their heads out of crumbly dirt. All around me was the scent of plants and trees in bloom, their leaves fluttering in abundance. I looked out over the railing, at the hilly park, with its winding paths fading into the distance, and at the roads and buildings beyond, the Knesset nestled amidst it all, flags billowing. The wind in my hair, I absorbed it all.
Soon my dream came true, and I had my own view, in our little rented apartment in Jerusalem. The apartment was on a hill, and in the evenings, when the air was cool, I would wander out onto the patch of grass and climb up onto the smooth stone platform in the corner of the yard. There, raised on a hill, I could look down at all the surrounding neighborhoods, little dots of beautiful Jerusalem stone, pale pink and orange in the brilliant reflection of the setting sun.
When we knew we were leaving Israel to move to America, my first thought was of the uplifting scenery that I would miss. I went to the Kosel and tried to photograph the moment in my senses, as I stood in the old city and looked out over the golden domes and pale stones, worn by generations but standing strong and ethereal. I tried to absorb the last vestiges of the glorious sunset as it sent all the mountains and stone buildings ablaze with color.
I held it all within me until that first day in our American home, when I ran around throwing all the curtains aside and pushing the heavy windows open. Stately red brick houses stared back at me, bare barks of trees seemed to wink cynically in my direction. The sky was grey, the concrete floors matched it obediently. I searched for the color, for the movement, for the energy of holiness and tradition. But I couldn’t find it, not in the wilting branches of the tree outside my window, not in the drab and dreary front porch of my home where I had a dying wilting plant in a square of earth.
It was missing from the glassy eyes of passersby, who walked by shielded from the world by headphones, staring straight ahead. It was missing from the cold flashing billboards, the imposing metallic skyscrapers, and the endless dark highways.
And so it was, as I sat huddled in my hard orange seat on the Q train on a blistery winter day, looking through the window at the passing blur of greys and browns, amidst fellow passengers burrowing inside bulky hats, their i-Phones obscuring their faces, that I admitted that the room with the view would have to be inversed.
In my own home, I could create warmth, beauty, and vitality. I couldn’t look for the inspiration to come from the glow outside my window any longer. It had to be summoned from within.
Sarah Fink is a young wife and mom living in New York. In between reading storybooks, cleaning up lego, kissing bruised knees and saving her living room from becoming a war zone, she enjoys reading, painting, and of course, writing.