Windows

My childhood bedroom window had two sides that opened outward like a double door by turning a small latch in the middle. Opening it felt like possibility. A person could lean out and breathe in the night air. There was a screen that pulled down from the top, sort of like a roller shade, but without the pulley strings. To put it back up, you pressed a little mechanism, and it rolled right back up and away. My mom always pulled it down (“to keep the bugs out”). I remember the screen’s smell, especially when it rained, and the way its metallic tang mixed with the perfume of the star jasmine, peonies, and roses from Mom’s garden below. We were on a hill, so my view looked across the neighbors’ rooftops, over my town and the next town, all the way towards the San Francisco Bay. On a clear day, I could just make out the city’s buildings and Golden Gate bridge way, way off in the distance. I loved that window because I could see beyond my world, and I couldn’t wait to go there someday. 

I remember my college dorm window freshman year, and waking up the first day it snowed in early November. It felt like the scene from Wizard of Oz when Dorothy steps from the black and white world into a world of Technicolor, only for me it was the reverse. The day before had provided  a robin’s egg blue sky, noisy, ice-cold winds whipping around, and explosions of gold, red, and orange leaves blowing off the trees. When I woke up the next morning, the branches were bare, the world was covered in a thick blanket of white, and edges had become curves. The window had a deep sill where a person could sit and watch the huge, quiet snowflakes falling. The world had changed overnight like magic. I wondered how many students over the history of that old building had sat there like me, pondering the wonder of it. 

I remember the bedroom window of the first home I owned, and the row of poplar trees outside. The window was nothing great. The poplars were spectacular. They were hypnotic. Their leaves were in constant motion, shimmering, fluttering, dancing, gold, green, silver, with a constant whirr of birds zipping in and out. Sky. Leaves. Movement. I watched it all with my brand new first-born tucked in the crook of my arm, my heart and head full of wonder. In the late afternoon the sunlight played hide and seek and the inside of the room flickered. It was as if there were fairies in the room, whirring around us like the birds. 

I had another bedroom window in my first marriage that wasn’t a window at all but large wall of glass with a door that went out onto a deck. It felt like being in a tree house amidst tall pines and giant Maples. In the spring, massive, paw-like, wet leaves clogged the drain on our deck causing a disastrous leak in the room below. In the winter, when the leaves died, you could see north, over Portland’s industrial district and the Willamette River. I had a dream one night that I died and my soul rose up from my body and flew out that window away to the north. There were other windows in that room too that were much smaller and faced west. I remember being woken up one night by the brightest, fullest moon I had ever seen. It was like the universe was shining a giant flashlight at me telling me to “Wake up! Wake up!” 

There have been other windows that made make their mark on me. Kitchen windows above the sink, and watching birds hungrily attack suet, seed, and syrup. Living room windows filled with the best Christmas tree ever (every year, every tree, every window). A tiny window on a stairwell landing that our little dog Scooter deemed his watchtower on the street below. My office window with a view of bamboo dancing. Airplane windows and the anticipation of our destination. Car windows and wind. Train windows and motion sickness. Hotel windows with balconies. 

I am very grateful for my current window at the foot of the bed I share with my husband, Alex. It faces west, and is actually three large square picture windows. This window is the most sweeping view I’ve ever had from any window. I can see all kinds of trees, and instead of blocking the view, they’re part of the view. There’s a marsh, and a meadow that will soon be houses, some rooftops, and way off in the distance, the Forest Park hills. The main attraction, though, is the sky. It’s a big sky. It’s kaleidoscopic. It’s a stage production. The main characters are the shape-shifting clouds, the ever-changing colors, the birds large and small, and even the airplanes and their contrails. The moon still makes its surprising late night appearances from time to time, but it feels like a mischievous late-night friend rather than an alarm bell. We can see fireworks from this window on holidays. We can see the seasons in full force from this window; the rain shooting sideways, pummeling or misting, snow pelting hard like fine sugar or falling soft like giant cotton balls, skies so blue you want to dive in for a swim.  On the dresser beneath the window is a large glazed ceramic plate, a gift from dear relatives. A s we look out, it's as if the plate is balancing heaven on earth.

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1 comment

  • Patty
    Patty Vanhattan
    Ashley- Loved the descriptions and the “word paintings.” I could see it all very clearly in my mind. Keep writing.

    Ashley-
    Loved the descriptions and the “word paintings.” I could see it all very clearly in my mind. Keep writing.

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