The place known as “kneehole” in the desk hadn’t seen any knees for a very long time- it was such a great storage place for those resources I might need. When those very files were neatly boxed and ready to return to their real homes, I decided a good sweeping was in order. As I moved the broom into the back corner, three crisp green dollar bills emerged, clinging to the white dots from the hole punch and collected dust.
I sat down in the familiar desk chair, glancing from the small found treasure across the familiar room, past the empty bookshelves to the doorway. The door itself is cleared of the posters , which replaced the infamous “Miss America door” of a few years ago, which acquired its name as the first of thirteen new clergy called to the diocese were female. Now it is a summer Friday. All is quiet on the second floor of Mission House. There is no traffic in the hallway, no friendly waves or smiles or passing hellos. Briefly I image figures pausing in that doorway, and then it’s back to work.
I lean down and separate the bills from the trash. What a funny thing to stumble onto. I wonder briefly how and why they were lodged there. And then my thoughts turn to treasure. What it means. How much or how little makes it qualify as treasure. And I know that it’s about far more than these three one dollar bills.
For several weeks now I’ve been sorting through trash and treasure in this space…the office at Mission House, home to the Diocese of Lexington since 2001. Treasures that had moved from other spaces- at the old Episcopal Seminary Advocate Office, at old Diocesan House on Sayre Avenue, and several locations at Christ Church Cathedral. Odd and not so odd things keep turning up that remind me of each space. The dictionary, that necessary tool for journalists, moved from the seminary room to the old kitchen on Sayre Avenue to the Advocate room on the second floor to all of the subsequent locations where the paper was produced. I return it to the wide windowsill where those “most used” books were close by my side. The framed poster of Grace Cathedral. The blue chair with the “dammit” doll on its broad arm. Notes to be kept. Memos for the trash.
I know that Don, who keeps our offices clean, will be here one day next week, but I have a need to tidy up. To leave the drawers not just empty, but clean. I can’t fix the empty nails or nail holes, but I can sweep and dust. I remember the other spaces where it has felt important to say a “good goodbye”- a way of honoring what has been by personally caring for the space. My own little ritual for closing each part of the space, for honoring small memories until finally the ritual is done and it’s time to close the door.
To a stranger passing by, the room must seem bare, devoid of personal or professional effects. Simply an attractive, bay- windowed room, ready for occupancy. I see it in multi- dimensions, peopled with those who graced these seats, whose laughter, passion, heartbreaks and dreams are part of the very walls.
In his book Going Home, author Robert Raines talks about about learning to live in tents of perpetual adaptation; that the idea of a fixed forever place is but a myth we unlearn through many life transitions. Hard stuff for a nester, who needs her books and pictures in place to step forward. But the time has come.
The sound of the door closing echoes in the empty hallway.
I walk down the familiar staircase slowly, looking at each familiar thing on my path. My one-winged angel is in the car, with so many other treasures of these years. The three dollar bills just made me remember there are things whose value cannot be measured.
The next time I come here, a new and different community will be building, as it should be. May every blessing that I have known and more be theirs.
In her poem “Each Day A White Bull Steps Shining Into the World”, Jane Hirshfield writes;
“That you came to love it; that was the gift. Let the envious gods take back what they will.”
The door closes on a form; a container. The essence of the treasures are mine to carry beyond this door, and across new thresholds.