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OPINION | DANA KELLEY: View from my window

by Dana Kelley | January 7, 2022 at 2:46 a.m.

Architecturally, windows in a house exist primarily to provide light and ventilation. Philosophically and metaphorically, windows represent eyes, reflections, vision, passageways, barriers, perspective and more.

Functionally, we look out windows (and sometimes people look in). Just as we have motion routines in our homes--to and from where the coffee maker is, the refrigerator, the bathroom, etc.--there's also often a regimen around certain windows.

From some we regularly glance out to check weather conditions; others, like those above a kitchen sink, are casually surveyed as we're doing regular chores or activities. Some windows frame a particular view just so, which we enjoy pausing to enjoy.

Looking out from our windows we watch the seasons change, the wind blow, the rain and snow fall; we see people arriving and departing, the sun rising and setting, birds flying and squirrels scurrying. Windowscapes also often include neighboring houses, yards and fences, as well as streets, sidewalks and alleys.

What our windows show us daily is continuous snapshots of nature, life and time.

"By my window have I for scenery," Emily Dickinson wrote, acknowledging the portals that populated her deeply interior propensity and contributed to her prolific poetry.

Her bedroom on the southwest corner of the second floor had four windows. From the two west-facing windows, she saw a large grove of deciduous trees that shaded and shaped the private property and stood between her home and her brother's.

Looking south gave her a vista that included all the public activities of Amherst's Main Street, and past a broad hay meadow, the city's factory smokestacks and main railways, with the faint outlines of the Holyoke Mountains far in the distance.

Like Dickinson, we typically have windows facing different directions, some with more scenic optics than others. For millennia, all the varying views from windows across the globe were familiar mainly to that home's inhabitants.

But the peculiar mix of today's technology--ubiquitous smartphones in pocket or purse containing both a high resolution camera and content-rich social applications--allows people to share worldwide what they see looking out their windows.

The "View from my Window" group on Facebook boasts nearly 3 million members (groups are one of the things the social media colossus does best). I'm a latecomer to the group, but an enthusiastic and grateful one.

The ability to "see" the views from fellow members' windows is a truly marvelous feat, especially considering the possibility has only become reality in the last 15 years or so. Generations upon exponential generations of people never saw what their counterparts in other continents and countries could see, except in paintings, photographs or, later, motion pictures.

And group members and others not only view the images, but prodigiously engage with them, "liking" or "sharing" or making comments by the tens of thousands.

Scrolling through posts on my iPhone, I see a sunrise in Greece (18.8K likes), a woodland in western Oregon (12.9K likes), and, appropriate for the season, a throng of snowscapes and white Christmas images.

Alongside a storybook winter forest scene outside her front door window in the Canadian Rocky Mountain foothills, one woman wrote, "Today and many days, it feels like I live in a snow globe!"

There's a Huntsville, Ala., window view of a peaceful night-time snowy scene with a notation that the day before it had been 77 degrees with tornado warnings (20.6K likes).

As my finger slides the screen upward, I see a picturesque valley village in Pakistan, a marina canal in sunny South Africa, the downy-white peacefulness of blanketed tree branches in Finland.

Attributing the average picture's worth of 1,000 words, a veritable library of visual splendor unfolds before my eyes. Countless kindred Dickinson spirits compose recitations about "the windows have they for scenery."

Many of the members have lived long in their houses, and watched decades unfold beyond their sills. A man in Miami has looked out on the palm trees in his backyard for 27 years. A Virginia woman writes of raising her family's four children in her house over the last 30 years.

Another woman notes it's her 30th year in her Vancouver, Wash., home, while displaying her view of the Columbia River. More than 4,600 miles away--but only a few screen-scrolls down--a post showcases a Cork City, Ireland, backyard, where the author has resided for 36 years and says, "we have all four seasons most days!"

Others are recently retired and/or relocated, expressing joy at new, first-time views. More than a few mention the group's magic lens effect, and the blessing of peeking out from, and taking in views of, so many places they (and I) have never been.

Perhaps even more inspiring than the personal, intimate pictures shared are all the remarks made by commenters, which comprise a pleasant cacophony of blessings, compliments and well-wishes.

Kind words, rather than contrary ones. Good will, as opposed to ill. In droves, from a pool of millions.

It's a welcome, illustrative reminder that the best things in life, the things that matter most and form the dearest memories, are within the walls of home--or just outside the window.

Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.

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