In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Washing the windows

I've finished washing the windows in the kitchen and living room. Last fall, in an effort to reduce the inherent windiness of an old clapboard house, Greg caulked the wooden storm windows in place. So taking off the storms this spring has been a slower process. Each storm window has been made specifically for a particular window. And each one has its own quirks, which I am beginning to know. 

After the storm windows were off and safely stored in the shed, I washed the windows. Even with our woodstove going all winter long, there was no dust or grime to speak of on the windows. But after I have removed the storm windows and washed all the panes with vinegar and water, the windows sparkle.   

Most of the windows still have the old original panes with bubbles and wavy glass. If you sit across the room and look out through the windows the world outside dissolves into small discrete impressionist views, each small rectangle slightly off kilter from its neighbours. A few panes of new glass have been installed over the years to replace old ones that have broken. When you look through a pane of new glass you see a world that is literal, factual: sky, sea, tree. Within the same window, the views through the older panes slide this way and that, like water rippling in the cove on a quiet day. When you look through the original glass you see a world that's open to interpretation.    

The kitchen windows are quite small, and low. Visitors comment on how small they are. Really, if you want to look outside while you are in the kitchen you will need to bend down, or sit down at the kitchen table, which is Greg's special quiet late afternoon place for drinking a beer or a mug of tea and planning his menus or making his lists for trips to town, and looking outside. If I go into the kitchen while he's sitting there, he growls. In earlier times people did not care for views as we do. If you had to get your living the hard way, by going out to sea in a little boat, you didn't want to sit looking at the sea when you were safe at home.   

So the windows in the living room are a good size considering when they were built, in about 1858, and considering that this was not an elegant house like those in the Town of Shelburne, but a simple fisherman's cottage on a remote island.  When you sit in the living room, because we made three smaller rooms into one room, you can look out in three directions. The weather here can be very dramatic. Last night -- an undramatic night -- the sunset was pink and gold and copper and grey over the the water on the western side while night darkened into deep indigo on the eastern side. 

I guess if you were going to build a house from scratch in a beautiful and wild place like this you might be tempted to put in a room with all glass, so you could see everything that was going on. When we first moved here we thought we might eventually add such a glassed-in room.  As it is, a heron flies past and you catch a glimpse in one window, then a millisecond later another glimpse, then a third.  You don't see the heron in flight, really: only brief bits and pieces of it.The world outside comes to us in fragments, never whole. 

I have read* that small windows, or windows with many small panes, are actually more pleasing for people to look through than large expanses of glass.  It's the contrast, if I remember right, between the sturdy walls and upright framework that keep us sheltered safe inside and those brief, defined glimpses of something intense and vast and wild, something that beckons us but also humbles us, outside, beyond.  

*Somewhere in Christopher Allen et al, A Pattern Language, Oxford University Press, 1977.

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