Windows

windowsThis morning, as I sip my tea, I am having the rare pleasure of watching a baby nuthatch learning to negotiate an ash tree upside down in proper nuthatch fashion. Earlier I was awakened by the soft murmur of a dawn wind stirring the aspen leaves just outside the bedroom window directly beside my bed. Not a day goes by, indeed, not a part of a day passes, when I fail to appreciate the many fine windows, which are the happiest features of the simple country home we designed and had built.

My vision for the windows was based on a experience of a floating tent. At a long ago  guide camp, I slept in an old “bell tent” with brailings, canvas sides which could be rolled in fair weather so the tent became little more than an airy canopy. Since the most important aspect of our home is our experience of the land, I wanted to recapture this remembered feeling of living intimately with outdoors. In fair weather, I hoped to open the house to birdsong and air. Learning from the design of pioneer homes, we took every opportunity to catch cross-breezes.

Too big? Too small? For months we refined our plans, studied windows everywhere we went. Too high? Too low? Just what would constitute a feeling of shelter while preserving our relationship with the forest and field surroundings? In the back of our minds was an awareness that later in life there might come a time when we would be confined to the house itself. How could we conserve the most of the outdoor experience if that time came?

One winter day, helped by our builder, Paul Musselman, we sat down with a windows salesman and firmed up our plans. The energy-saving windows we chose with their protective coatings meant that the large spaces of glass and screen we wanted were possible.

Then came a long anxious wait to find out what exactly we had purchased. When at last we stood inside the plywood shell of the house looking out the shimmed-in windows, what we saw filled us with joy. Framed at each end of the house, north and south, long, tall visions of forest drew the eye. To the west and east were broad stretches of glass, reaching almost to the floor and ceiling, which did indeed bring the outdoors in to us.

The one luxury we had bought gave us far more than we could ever have anticipated, and the pleasure has continued to grow. When we first moved in, we sat simply looking at the wall of fiery autumn color of the maples that come so close to our home. Later, once the leaves have fallen, I knead bread at a kitchen counter where I can look out in three directions, watching the snowflakes fall, whitening the beautiful sheltered valley beyond the house. In spring, I see the greening of the aspen trunks, the mists blowing. And now, I sit in a floating house, hearing the wind traveling, traveling down the valley to stir the aspen leaves.

About Peri McQuay

Peri Phillips McQuay is the author of Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home, The View From Foley Mountain, a book of nature meditations on her experiences living for 30 years at the Foley Mountain Conservation Area and A Wing in the Door: Life With a Red-tailed Hawk is the story of her adventures with Merak, a human-imprinted hawk, who lived free but saw McQuay and her family as her special people. Also Peri has written numerous essays, articles, book reviews and a weekly column, published in the Kingston Whig-Standard Magazine. Her credits include Country Journal, Harrowsmith, Bird Watcher’s Digest, The Snowy Egret, Seasons, The Fiddlehead, Herizons and Brick.
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