Window in the Annex

Well, I’ve made it seven days into my commitment to write 500 words a day. One week down, countless to go!

So far, it’s forced me into the habit of thinking about my writing each day. It is, of course, difficult to write when my mind feels blank or when I don’t feel no motivation to write. During such times, finding words to type is like pulling a heavy weight out of a sea of honey (or molasses – something sticky and viscous) using a rope. The closer I think I get to the right thing, the stickier it all feels. Self doubt, the inner critic, whatever you want to call it… that’s when it really comes out to play. Nothing feels right. But I suppose the point is to learn that even when it doesn’t feel right – you can fix it later. As long as you’re putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll get from point A to point B.

One thing I keep on my desk to help motivate me is a postcard. On the post card is a window. It looks like an attic window, more specifically, because of the old, unfinished wood that forms its pane. Through the window you can see the top of a very tall tree and just a bit of bright sky that shines through the beautiful spring leaves and flowers that adorn the tree.

That is it. A tree seen through an attic window.

This image inspires me, though, perhaps not because of what it is… but more where it is. This window is the only window not blacked out or covered in the make-shift living space above the old Opekta building in Amsterdam. That is to say, it is the only view of the outside world that Anne Frank and her family had for two years.

If you were to climb up the ladder that leads to this window in the Secret Annex, you might see a glimpse of the nearby church or some other attic windows belonging to nearby buildings; but for the most part, it is this tree. In the warm months, green; in the winter months, bare limbs reaching for the sky. That is it.

When you visit the museum, you learn a lot about the war and how it came to The Netherlands, to Amsterdam. You learn about Otto Frank and the company that he started, the people who worked there. You are slowly submerged in the setting, the time, the mood. Then you ascend the infamous stairs behind the bookcase to the Secret Annex. The rooms are all bare – the way the Nazis left them after their raid – as per the request of Otto Frank himself. It is a solemn, single-file line of people who shuffle from room to room. I’m not sure what I had expected when I first went in, but I was struck by how small all the rooms were. The lights were all quite dim, as well. It felt like night, despite it being about lunch time.

Just before you leave the Annex, you pass through a store-room with a tall ladder that leads to a small attic above. At the top of the ladder, the window.

The afternoon when we passed through was overcast – gray and rainy, with a chill in the air – and the tree was bare. The scene was just dark brown, almost black, wet tree limbs against a cloudy sky… but at the time, it seemed as though it must be the most beautiful scene in the world. You’re not allowed to take pictures in the museum but I did not want to forget the feeling I had when I saw that window. Fortunately, I must not be the only one to find significance in the window and I was able to purchase the postcard.

Now it sits upon my desk and serves as my reminder. It is so easy to take the world around us for granted. We easily forget just how beautiful the simplest things can be. And even with all of this here around us, we still suffer times when we claim to be ‘uninspired’. It is also a reminder that some people are not given the chance to live their dreams and that I should not squander the time I do have buckling under the weight of my fears instead of pursuing my own dreams. I write.

And sometimes I write because Anne Frank, and many other people for many different reasons, cannot.


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