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Sharon Randall: A window on the world

By Sharon Randall

Lucky me. My husband and I are spending time in a cottage by Monterey Bay in California, visiting our kids and grandkids and friends in the area.

It’s like being on a cruise ship without the motion sickness and shuffleboard tournaments.

Today, I am doing what my grandmothers loved to do: Staring out the window to see what I can see — and thinking about a nagging question.

More about the question later. First, about my grandmothers.

My mother’s mother lived on the main street of a small town in North Carolina. Her living room window gave her a view of people passing by on their way to the post office or grocery store or wherever.

Having raised 10 children (nine talkative girls and one timid boy), she was fascinated by people and their stories.

“Look,” she’d say, pointing to a passer-by. “Where’s he’s been? What’s he got in that sack? How much you reckon he paid for it?”

Sometimes a neighbor would stop to visit and sit on the porch swapping gossip, while I sat at their feet pretending not to eavesdrop. I loved it.

My dad’s mother lived on a farm in the mountains. From her kitchen window, she watched birds at a feeder she filled with cornbread; storms that raged in summer; leaves that turned crimson in fall; snow that sifted down in winter like powdered sugar on a cake.

Having spent all her life in those mountains, raising a family and tending a farm, she was fascinated by nature.

“Look,” she’d say, pointing to a cardinal at the feeder or morning glories by the fence or water rising in the creek after a downpour. “Isn’t that a sight?”

Sometimes we’d go for walks on the mountain. She’d lead the way, tossing snakes out of our path with her snake stick, introducing me to flora and fauna as if we were distant kin at a family reunion. I loved it.

All of that’s to say this. I share my grandmothers’ fascinations. I love people and nature. I study them, as my grandmothers did, to see what I can learn about this sweet old world I call home.

From the window in this cottage, I look out on a dazzling blue bay dotted with sea otters and pelicans and sailboats; in the garden, white butterflies and red-throated hummingbirds dance above dusty pink roses; in the bushes, a yellow-eyed cat hunts for anything she can get.

I watch a parade of people, young or old, alone or in pairs, who pass on the street or the recreation trail along the shore.

I pretend not to eavesdrop on their conversations. I wonder about their lives, where they’ve been, where they’re going, what’s inside their backpacks and how much they paid for it. I long to know their stories.

A question I have often asked over the years, when going off to college, getting married, raising children, losing a husband and starting over, time and again, is this: What’s my purpose in this stage of my life? Why am I here?

Lately, I’ve been asking it again. My children are grown. My husband is retired. I love having the freedom to spend time with family and friends and to chase our six grandchildren.

But I often have the feeling that I ought to be doing more. Some of us get to live longer than others do. I don’t know why. All I know is life is a gift. I want to live it well. So I keep asking, why am I here?

Imagine my surprise to learn the answer from my 6-year-old grandson. Recently, Henry’s kindergarten teacher told his mom that he had shared something “very profound” in class that day. The class was reading a story, she said, about living things and oxygen, when Henry raised his hand.

“I’ve been trying to figure out why humans are here on Earth,” he said, “and I just did. We’re here to help other living things.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

I’ll count on Henry and his cousins and the view out my window to help me remember, at any age, any stage of life, we are all here to help.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, NV 89077, or www.sharonrandall.com.

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