Windows with a View

Windows, I discovered late in life, are essential to my writing process. When I began graduate school not quite four years ago, my husband and I converted a little-used attic room into my private work space. It should have been ideal —it was a garret after all!— furnished with new Ikea shelves, a comfy reading chair, and a refinished mahogany writing desk that I’d long been dying to put to virtuous use. It had three windows that overlooked the big backyard and a woodsy side lawn. The space should have been ideal, romantic even, but it wasn’t. It was drafty in the winter, stifling in the summer. I was able to stand up only in the very middle of the room where the ceiling peaked (and I’m barely 5’3”), and I often forgot to duck when I walked through the door. But the real problem was the windows. When I worked, whether writing at the desk or reading in the chair, I could see only a scrap of sky, like a piece of fabric torn from a larger, more luxurious garment. I felt disconnected, shut out from the richness beyond.

I abandoned the garret and spent the next two and a half years working in the basement office I share with my husband. This meant sitting less than four feet from someone who conducts business from home on the phone —and we don’t have room dividers or padded partitions. I had given up romance and privacy for something more important: windows with a view. They are doors, actually, two over-sized sliders that make a wall of glass.

We live about a mile from the center of our town, and only twenty miles from downtown Boston, but we border 80-plus acres of conservation land. Sitting in my shared writing space I can see an expanse of grass, majestic trees, an old dairy pond, as well as deer —lots of deer. Occasionally, a fox or coyote will skirt the edge of the property, and every June a snapping turtle lumbers across the lawn like it’s her private Serengeti to lay eggs on the same sun-beaten slope. While all this nature and wildlife is wonderful, I don’t need it to write. What I need is a view, an expanse where my imagination can roam. To borrow from Emily Dickinson’s “I dwell in Possibility…,” (which also mentions windows), I thrive on fortuity. My creativity is at its best when my eyes can focus on the far, so my mind can explore what lies between.

The windows at the Room overlook an urban canyon populated by workers and cars and taxi cabs. But these windows are vast, roughly 3’ x 8’ and there are ten of them lined up like eager scouts. Imagine Larry Bird standing on the inside sill, putting his hands on his hips to fill the frame then stretching his arms overhead. Then imagine Larry Bird flying out the window, or a toucan flying up to the window, because with all that glass, with all those windows with views, anything is possible. The imagination is loosed on the world beyond and, in my experience, words are sure to flow.

Jane Poirier Hart, WROB Poetry Fellow

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