Until recently, the site next to the brick office building in which I work was occupied by a large surface parking lot. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was a little bit in love with the view of downtown Minneapolis that was part of my daily routine. I took for granted that the slant of light and shadows through my window were equally as reliable and telling as the Milwaukee Road Depot Clock down the street in letting me know the time of day.
Within the last year, though (and quite possibly it’s been two by now), the lot was chained off, taken over by plans for an infill of urban development that includes buildings containing residential units, a fair amount of commercial space for retail tenants and a walkway to the river – all part of the changing landscape of the city.
In recent months, I watched from the desk chair of my office cubicle as construction crews took over the block – the floors and walls of the building vibrating from the advancement of change as Tyvek-covered walls were put up in the once empty asphalt lot next door.
I waved at construction workers installing windows and walls. The new neighbor of a building gained a little more height each day until one of those days – unremarkably and almost as if without warning – the building next door completely blocked out not only the view I’d once had of downtown Minneapolis, but any view at all. Although I’d watched it happen, I was stunned. Surprised. Stupefied.
I grieved the loss of the sunlight, especially in the first weeks, but soon found myself back in a place of satisfied well being at my desk – the window, the light, mostly forgotten.
But this anecdotal piece really isn’t about the loss of a window, or of light.
It isn’t even about progress or about the ever-changing face of the city.
It’s about listening to my own storytelling and acknowledging it as a wake-up call that falls far beyond my desk or the now-absent sprawling concrete of the parking lot.
It’s about recognizing and admitting that it’s far too easy to become complacent when the world around us feels secure and seems impermeable – to go through a day without making any connection whatsoever to the things happening right in front of the eyes, out the window, down the block.
I don’t want to be the kind of human being who allows myself that kind of ease.
If I take the action of rising from the comfort of my desk chair, it’s possible to see a sliver of the winter sky. These days, I’m standing.
Tami Mohamed Brown lives in Bloomington with her family.