I step into an attic room. A long window stretches between the slant of the roof, the glass is dirty and the paint around it peeling. The room is cluttered and dusty. Dust – it’s everywhere. The streak of sun that shines through the window is thick with the drifting and swirling particles I disturbed when I opened the door.
In the midst of the neglect I notice a chest pushed back under the eaves. The wood is rough and what may have once been a painted spray of flowers on the lid is now scratched and faded. More dust. The stillness in the room isn’t eerie or depressing. It’s lifeless. Waiting.
Instinctively know the chest is mine. Tucked in this forgotten place, I have filled it with memories and parts of myself I want hidden away. I open the lid and to my surprise I find it’s empty. How could that be? I thought myself so clever to have this hiding place full of dust.
I have never filled the chest! The memories and parts of myself I want hidden I still carry deep within. I look closer at the faded lid and I see the word: Treasure. No wonder it is empty. I have neglected what is precious. Each hidden piece waits to be placed tenderly in the chest, one-by-one, seen for what it really is.
I look around the room and envision a place I did not see before. I see the window washed and open to let in the fresh air. I picture the dust cleared and the room arranged to be cozy and inviting. I know I will visit often, here to place new treasures in the chest as I discover them, because it is clear to me now that I will discover them for the rest of my life.
If I leave the lid to the chest open, maybe a cat will curl up among the treasures to take a nap. Perhaps a bird will come through the window and find a place among its contents to build its nest. What a lovely thought! But I can close the lid if I choose – the contents are valuable and exposed to some they wouldn’t be safe. I can choose. But I will never again let the lid be covered with dust. I will never again leave it hollow and neglected. I will do the work.
Sometimes I will invite trusted friends into my room for a cup of tea and to let them marvel at my treasures. Often I will enjoy the space alone, breathing in a stillness that is life-giving and full of anticipation. There will be fresh flowers.
Beth Kinghorn is a mom, a writer and an educator. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.