After responding to a flurry of emails from early risers and adjusting my seat, I also needed to adjust my window curtains. The daily switch from bright morning light to the more productive midmorning sun was complemented by the sounds of heavy machinery reversing in the distance and the stream of cars humming on the main road nearby.
Sound and light travel differently as the day moves on. Sometimes that stream of cars is thunderous. My neighborhood is nestled between one of the city's main arteries and a highway that cuts through the state. Around 7:30 a.m., drivers rev their engines, likely with coffee mug in hand or in cup holder, to get to where they need to be — if not where they want to be.
I've grown an awareness of the light that filters into my outdoor office. The space used to be a shed. It came with the property, and for a few good years, it was storage. Spiderwebs interlaced the items that trickle into a lower-middle-class life when you buy things — items that can't find a regular-enough use to get the honor of a place in the house but that hold on through your not having the heart to throw them away, just in case.
When I started working from home — before the pandemic made that incredibly hip — I had a desk in a spare room that we knew was on a timeline to become one of the kids' rooms. When I started telling my husband stories about how good I was getting at working the mute button on my phone to create an artificial workspace around the enthusiastic shrieks of a toddler, he took a hard look at that shed.
When I worked in cubicles, I would joke to him that I would know I had arrived when I had an office with a window. I don't think I realized how much effect my offhand mantras had on him, until he steadily tried to convince me that the shed could be an office. It had windows. "The size of kitten lungs," I'd reply.
Now I have one large window behind my computer screens that faces east into the yard, with the tower of our newly built swing set at eye level, so I watch the kids play. I have another window that faces south; it's mostly blocked by the house, but I can see my mom outside her door as she moves between sitting in the shade and standing in the sun.
I've been getting in tune with the light, too, and with that, I've begun to find the rhythm of myself and my routines, and to see a reflection of something else I didn't have much of before: hope.
My husband's hope in me, in my future, in my abilities, pulled a simple room together, but it meant so much more. It was a physical manifestation of hope I didn't necessarily have in myself as steadily as he had it in me. When I started to decay in my cubicle jobs, when gray began to filter into my expressions as I came home, when I began to lose hope in where I was and who I was, he kept hold of the hope for me. Because when we start to lose hope, we start to lose ourselves. He didn't want to lose me, but really, he didn't want me to lose myself. He tried to give hope back to me even before I might have been ready to take it, because he knew it was time.
Perhaps the sounds I hear in the office will be different in the future. Perhaps the bird tweets will overtake the engine revs as we move toward an electric car future. Perhaps I'll learn to switch to classical music instead of lo-fi hip-hop. But I'll always have the light from the windows and an awareness of it shifting throughout my days as the seasons pass.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma (sorry, Cassie), and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She is also a National Society of Newspaper Columnists ambassador and can be contacted at