Room With A View

Every window we look through frames a unique instant in time.
Every window we look through frames a unique instant in time.

It is a mercy how quickly we forget.

One temperate day, one afternoon when the colors of winter, such as they are, return in full sunlight; one moment when warmth wafts the smell of unfrozen sod that you inhale casually, without threat of lung-freeze.

And all the endless hours of never being quite warm, of never feeling free of threat from the vicious cold just a pane of glass away, the tedious indoor-bound pacing of weeks of constant and severe freezing winds–all just melts away with a day like yesterday.

From my winter corner near the window and as near to the wood stove as one can safely sit, I have read and wondered and fretted most of January. Then, the first day of February, behold. The view has changed. And I have shed my long-johns at long last!

Not that on its own this view is a scene of much note: the bare sun-soaked branches on the south-facing bank above the garden compound and those in shadow below the bluff along Goose Creek; the painfully-red shed roof; the ordinary objects in the windowsill.

Time will come when I covet the memory of these ordinary moments, from that familiar short-day place where I sit to read, where I sit to wait for winter to pass, where I sit and watch for the buds on those same trees I look at today to “pink up” in early March–only three weeks away!–and ten weeks later, emerge tender-green.

This is not a special photograph. And yet, it is. I think about it this way, as I framed it in the Author’s Note of Slow Road Home:

I know this from my photographer’s experience: any image I take is one of a kind. Each composition in light or in words is unique the light will never be that color from that angle on that exact configuration of barn tree or wildflower ever again.

And this: that we too often take for granted the extraordinary senses of vision and hearing, touch and smell that are our gifts– opportunities given us by which we could know the familiar beauties too often missed or dismissed in our hurried lives. We have so little time in the present and there is so very much to take in and share. There are wonders all around.

From our everyday lives, these familiar things may seem unremarkable to us. But in these precious instants in time, if we keep our eyes open and our hearts ready to know it, there is nothing ordinary.

From our Nothing New Under the Sun Department: I just discovered a previous post with the same title and a similar topic. Room With a View from winter, 2009. So I’m repeating myself. Get over it. Geezerhood has its privileges.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. What it tells me is how important a part of life and semi-sanity WINDOWS are in January. Imagine winter without them, and cabin crazies takes on a whole new meaning.

  2. We have “greenhouse style” windows in all our rooms, so we can look up and see the sky. It is the best thing about living here. We have seen a total lunar eclipse, lying in bed. We watch Venus rise. We watch the sea gulls heading inland every morning. Sunrise in bed is an almost daily treat. I be the older we get, the more precious this gift of windows will become.
    Your post was so lovely I forwarded it to my friend who entitled her blog “Sacred Ordinary” and to my husband, for your thoughts on photographing the same things and yet never the the same.