I am a Window

As a child, I spent many quiet hours, especially on rainy days, sitting atop a living room radiator that stood as an extended sill in front of the window of our second-story apartment. Through the framed glass I could observe the street below, and watch the daily movements that passed before my eyes.

Cars splashed up the avenue, sometimes stopping, parking, and discharging occupants and drivers. Many were those who visited the bar and grille next door or the barber shop across the avenue. Most rushed forward, racing to beat the next traffic signal, flashing before my vision for a few seconds and then disappearing with a steady roar and the slick sound of rainwater thrown up behind their wheels.

On the cross street further down the block in front of the park, a two-way scene hurriedly danced up and down the boulevard: autos, trolley cars (later replaced by buses), delivery trucks, taxicabs, patrol cars, bicycles, and strollers beneath colorful umbrellas, some pushing canopied baby carriages.

As the rain slowed, pigeons and starlings began to dart across the gray sky above, soaring to treetops or the protection of gables and cornices on the neighborhood roofs. And periodically a commercial airplane, its engines roaring, its landing wheels already lowered, descended loudly and swiftly along its glide path into nearby LaGuardia Airport.

Overnight visitors to our flat often bolted awake, startled by the roar of the planes as they passed overhead, seemingly coming in on the roof of our building. To me, they had become night rhythms that accented peaceful sleep.

Similarly, a loose sewer cover in the middle of the street outside our building–the same one we used for home plate in our street games of stickball–would rattle like a cannon when a car or truck rolled over it, often startling guests, but providing me a melody of my urbanity.

When the rain stopped, and the window through which I was watching had become streaked with rivulets sliding to some hidden and mysterious pool below the sill, I began to see pedestrians. Salesmen and delivery boys emerged, making their rounds; housewives scurried along soaked sidewalks to get to market before the rain began again, which often it did. Children, many of them my playmates, had been banished to the indoors, perhaps like me, looking long, aimlessly, and hopeful at the scene outside their windows.

Trees appeared greener. Parked automobiles shone as if they’d returned to the showroom. The asphalt and concrete pavement seemed friendlier, cooler, thankful for the relief to its dry and hungry pores and the scrubbing of auto and animal grime from its face.

Unconsciously and wisely, the window framed life for me. Framing is a photographic artist’s primary tool. He or she sees the world through a magnifying window and works at reducing or expanding what is seen. So too, the writer always peers through some imagined or constructed window frame.

I recall reading encouraging words from some critic whose identity I can’t remember but whose words entered my soul: “Never accuse a writer who stares out a window as being lazy or negligent; every artist who peers for long periods through a window is quietly at work.”

An art professor I knew confessed he could not begin a painting or the assemblages on which he’d built his reputation and career as a collagist until he had spent time shopping for the right frame he would then push himself to fill imaginatively.

Jesus used prolific metaphors–traditionally identified as parables–in the gospels. In a way, the gospels are a metaphoric window to the mysteries of the Spirit.

The philosopher Paul Ricoeur has called a metaphor a “surplus of meaning.” That is, a metaphor is not constricted into one meaning, but overflows with nuances and suggestions.

I am a window, and when I place my frame around my vision, my dreams, my experience, and my imagination, I am compelled to transform what I behold through that metaphoric window into words that provide a surplus of meaning on a page.

And being a window transforms me into becoming a pen.

 

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