Thursday, April 24, 2008

Washing Windows

Like ironing the linen hand towels, washing windows is another mundane (and infrequent) task that I rather enjoy. Our windows have been screenless all winter and for several weeks now we've been opening them as the days grow warmer.

I love the feeling of screenless windows. I grew up in Florida where window screens were a constant and was amazed when we traveled in Europe to see windows in French apartments open with pillows and bedding spilling out to air. It seemed so exotic -- so European. And for a few brief weeks, we enjoy that same joy of opening our winter-stale house to the fragrant spring air, letting it flow, unimpeded by any barrier.

But now that an increasing number of insects are out and about -- wasps and huge droning carpenter bees by day and far too many light-seeking moths by night -- I haul the screens up from the basement and put them in place. But first, I wash the windows.

The dirt that's accumulated since last fall, the specks of insect droppings, the greasy finger prints, the smudges left by dog noses, even the imprint of a dove's wing, left when the bird ( probably pursued by a hawk) flew into the glass -- all these are wiped away like so many venial sins and our cherished eastern view is refreshed, both in the dining room and our bedroom.

In Madeline L'Engle's lovely adult novel A Severed Wasp, a violinist calls himself a window cleaner and he speaks of human isolation "'in this fragile bag of bones, where all our windows have been so fouled with futility and folly that we can't see out. So there have to be window cleaners.' Artists, he said, would clean the muddied windows with the purity of their art."

I can't pretend to anything so lofty. But I'm always reminded of this passage as I spray and wipe the dusty glass and the squeak of a paper towel on clean glass and a clear view to the eastern horizon bring a modified sort of rapture to this particular bag of bones

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