We bought our house in part for its good light. It has a small 1905 footprint, only about 30 feet by 20 feet, but it also has lots of casement windows, the old kind with weighted sashes, as well as fixed plate glass, newer combinations, and skylights in the attic. Lots of high windows.
Even the ground floor, windows are far above our heads, most of them, and our house is tall and narrow, with three floors. This means washing the windows is a job for professionals, which means it is quite expensive, which means it happens infrequently.
All this combines to render a dramatic transformation on those rare occasions when the windows are freshly washed. This happened last week, and the magic is still fresh. Now, instead of glancing out the window and thinking, “Is it raining? I can’t quite tell”, because of the accumulation of grime, I can see as clearly as through crystal clean water. The foreman of the crew–who thanked me for the board book about cows I’d given him for his new baby on his last visit four years ago–could it have been that long?–complimented us on the wavy glass set in the old frames.
The equinotical light, long and slanted this time of year, is a thing of beauty as it tumbles the images of green leaves, white clouds, and blue sky into our house. At dawn and sunset, pink and gold fires light themselves for a few moments in cool, smokeless splendor before winking out.
When our windows are clean, it seems to me as though I see everything in my life with more clarity and precision. Architecturally, windows are derived from doors. Etymologically, the word “window” is derived from the Old Norse words for “wind” and “eye”.
And so, in praise of windows and window washers, I would like to share these photographs taken over several years, as well as a short new poem.
Wind door. Sun door. Door
for soft breeze and summer rain,
lens for clear vision.
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