Changing Places

ONLY HOURS AFTER HER birth, Leyna lies quietly in my hands. Behind closed eyes she appears as peacefully at home as she was in the place from which she’s just arrived. For now, like a dog yapping far below a small bird nested safely in a treetop nest, the earthly world is only a distraction for my new granddaughter.

But in this new place, sounds can be loud, sharp and unsettling, and her eyelids tremble, resisting the glare. In quiet moments, Leyna’s face relaxes as she returns to her world of tranquil, secret thoughts. She has no words yet. She knows nothing of wealth or poverty, sincerity or deceit, day and night. The sun and moon are discoveries yet to be made, but I think she knows love. Her tranquil face invites me to unearth my own memory of the place she is in, but it is buried too deep; I find only hints.

Although she now prefers the warm cocoon of cradling arms, a new, pleasant coolness on her cheek promises adventure.

In time, the bright, seductive nowness of our world will overtake her and she will make it her home. In our world, home is people and home is places—as yet she knows neither. Leyna will soon open her eyes to her people—those caring, adoring faces of family and friends. The first home place she sees will be a handmade cradle of solid black walnut. As a first home, it is a good place. It protects and it piques. In the Craftsman tradition, it is reassuringly overbuilt, yet subtle angles and harmonious proportions exude refinement to those sensitive enough to see it. The cradle has properties that can fascinate for hours, and in her restless moments it will magically come alive to rock her to sleep.

The wooden cradle is more than just a place. It was made seventy-four years ago by Leyna’s great-great grandfather, Frank Brinkmann, of Illinois, and sent to California in time to welcome his first grandchild. Craftsman joinery, strong and simple, made it easy to disassemble in one place and resurrect in another. Since then, it has provided the first view of the world for three generations of children in Frank’s line, light and color filtered through its protective slats. Each new tenant has made improvements: new mattress, new rocker stops, removed rocker stops, teeth marks. Over time, the cradle became one of the family.

Soon enough, Leyna will outgrow the cradle. Her concept of home will expand to include a house, a neighborhood, a country. Her circle of friends will grow. She’s stuck with us for family, but that permanence means we will always be there for her. Feelings about her home place will expand and change for the rest of her life, and for her generation will include the entire planet.

I feel her small body move in my hands. She wants to be with her mother. Whoever said, “home is where the heart is” got it right. For Leyna, life will begin with a family and a sturdy, handmade cradle as home. For you, home might be family, friends, and a sturdy, hand-built bungalow. Cradle or bungalow, it is good to be protected on all sides, yet open to all that comes from above.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

John Brinkmann




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