The Bear of Winter has gripped our City.
We pay it no never mind. When the snow blows, we stay snug, enjoying the view from our windows.
We have our books. And LW has Wolfie, the fake fur blanket that cozies up to the Reading Chair. I have my nooks and crannies, which include the windowsills, where some of my books take turns sunbathing. Yes, I know the risks of sun on books, but we can all use a little extra light this time of year, and it clears away the must and mold.
She moved here for those windows, even though by doing so she sentenced herself to forty years (and counting) of climbing four flights of stairs with every homecoming. I agreed with her decision. If books do make a room, windows (and books) do make a library, for they anchor us to that larger world for which we, even us private libraries, exist as a place of exchange. I prefer Palladian windows, or, at the very least, tall ones arched at the top like ours. The arches trace the arc of the sky.
Our three southern windows face the street (two in the main room as shown above, one in a smaller side room). Two narrow casements in the rear of the apartment ventilate the kitchen and bath. These may not seem like much to house dwellers, but that’s a lot of window–and light–for a small apartment in this City. Take it from someone who has lived in the shadows.
Too, as a descendant of tree nymphs, I appreciate the view of the tree across the street. As I wrote in one of my first posts, the word library goes back to the Latin term for “a chest of books” and on down the etymological line to “book, paper, parchment,” “the inner bark of a tree,” and to the verb “to peel,” from which I acquired my name, Willa Peel. Trees are us.
Yesterday, in a presentation before church, LW learned that the mystic and abbess Julian of Norwich lived in a cell with three windows. One of the abbess’s windows opened onto the adjoining church so she could receive communion and hear the services. A second window allowed her to communicate with the outer world (and hopefully to see a tree), and a third allowed an attendant to deliver her food and remove that which needs removing. Her three windows served a dynamic of exchange among God, church, the outside world, her attendants, and herself.
Learning that Julian’s room also had three windows made LW feel all “abbessy,” as her personal saint Pee-wee Herman might describe it. And if LW was an abbess, and she was asked (through a window) for her recommendations for winter reading, she might recommend Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, Winter–Five Windows on the Season by Adam Gopnik, and a good, rich biography, the kind which opens windows to other worlds. (In my next post, I will discuss the good, rich biography that saw her through the coldest days of this snowy season.)
Sometimes, however, windows are not enough for LW. She needs a door and she needs to push through it. Then she risks the ice and slush and cold to get out among life at large, even it it’s just to, oh, buy a pencil as Virginia Woolf describes in her essay “Street Haunting – A London Adventure”* (“The hour should be the evening and the season winter…”)—or a cupcake.
I leave you two pictures from our bright, if not warm, St. Valentine’s Day. The first LW took at her local bakery (Magnolia) where she bought her cupcake. The second shows the remains of the day, which reminds me of another good book for winter reading. And speaking of good books for winter, what are your favorites?
*High-ranking candidate for LW’s all-time favorite essay