ORDINARY: premiere issue

Is This What It All Comes Down To?

The window is grungy and forgettable - one of four along the short expanse of wall in a room that has no permanent inhabitant but only transitory visitors who stay for a few weeks at a time. This window is background, filter, frame, portal, and setting. It is structural, somewhat functional, static and incidental.

            All windows offer slightly different views, but rooms tend to contain chairs or gathering points that provide a vantage point from which to frame, and therefore fix, a specific perspective of the world beyond the window. This particular window favors a small section of a one story, cinder block structure with a red asphalt shingle roof and two windows, similar in size and shape to the window at hand. There is an expanse of about 20 yards of grass that spans the space between our window and this small, one room building.

            The window frame is painted white, the paint cracked and stained and carelessly applied, creeping along the edges of the glass panes. The upper and lower sections are single 22"x30" panes of glass, not separated into four panes or six panes that are held in place by beads of putty and divided by spindles of delicate wood. These panes are not much for fragmenting the world, not out to present the view in smaller sections that require barely detectable exertions of imagination to fill in the breaks. No, these are no-nonsense windowpanes - the view is all right there--you want to look outside? Well, here you have it.

            There is a latch for opening the window but it is stuck from lack of use or overuse or neglect. Because the window was originally intended to open, this piece of hardware was To Use! To Facilitate Action! Make Something Happen! Be Purposeful! It had a function, a raison d’être. The two handles at the bottom edge of the window frame emphasize this intention and cast faint shadows of themselves on to the window frame when it is bright out in the late afternoon. One bears smudges of dark green paint to prove that it once was touched. 

            It is evident that there has been much effort made to cover the west-facing window, block out the afternoon light, prevent the inhabitant of the other building from being privy to any knowledge of what transpires in this room. There are plastic brackets on either side of the top section of the window frame, which once held venetian blinds as can be found still somewhat intact on several of the other window in the room. There is a vertical metal clip, painted white, of course, screwed to the side of the window frame. When the blinds were up, they would have been held in place by wrapping the cord around this clip in a jaunty nautical fashion.

            While there are no longer blinds on this window, there is a white pillowcase covering the top two-thirds of the upper section of the window. It is not an ordinary pillowcase. That is, it is not regulation size—it is actually quite innocuous and unassuming in color, material and design but appears about half the size of a normal pillowcase, perhaps for a child’s bed. It is held in place with two clear plastic push pins on either of the top corners. This solution is not effective for blocking light or maintaining privacy. It succeeds only in blocking out the tree line visible above the red-shingled roof and perhaps even a small slice of sky. This diminutive pillowcase succeeds only in failing. It should be noted, however, that the pillowcase is quite clean--a minor miracle considering its environment. Pillowcases should be clean and this one, while no longer used as it was intended, is a snowy, downy, comforting white. The pinned up cloth could be leftover from a two-part makeshift curtain but we will never know.

We will never know. There is no way to know who installed this window, how long it has been in place, who painted it, how all the nails and tacks and holes and smudges and cracks got there. It is impossible to know who, exactly, has looked out this window, what they thought and what they did next. Did they regard the window? Ignore it? Hang a miniature pillowcase or pull down its blinds? Do they remember this window? For a time, at least, it occupied the same space as the room’s guests; the window existed in the peripheral vision of those who have passed through this room. It existed (exists) as part of the structure that encloses the inhabitants of this room. Without it, there would be a gaping hole to the outside or there would be a different window with a different set of circumstances.

Is this what it all comes down to? A jumble of casual attempts, minor details, scant evidence of the solid foundation that motivated it all? This window is a tangible object containing form and, as such, there is an implied extension of that form into all the time and space it has occupied and will occupy. As such, it is so dispersed through this continuum; we can never know all of these points.



Dead Wasp on the Sill

This particular wasp would have, admittedly, had easy access to the building though one of two open doors. From there, it could have navigated its way down one dark hallway (and away from the light, which we know wasps are attracted to) to an anteroom, which serves as connecting point between two hallways. Once arrived at this opening, the creature would have faced many options including any of the five rooms opening off the anteroom, several landing possibilities or turning into the second hallway. While we cannot know for certain what factors informed the final decision, our wasp probably chose to turn down the second hallway because of the abundance of light spilling from it into the dark chamber. From here, it is likely that the door to this particular room was open providing the only available route out of the hallway. There are three other doors opening off the corridor, and there is a gap under all the doors wide enough to accommodate a spindly insect. But doubt pools around the image of a wasp landing on the floor in front of a door, wriggling its way under a door and resuming flying. And we know that wasps don’t knock (if they do, they aren’t admitted). The door to this room was probably open. But it is not often open, so once inside the wasp was trapped. It is quite tragic to imagine the wasp encountering the four windows and the skylight as invisible force fields preventing salvation. It is easy to surmise that the wasp began to panic, darting madly between windows, bouncing off the glass panes when encountering the mysterious invisible barrier. And what, exactly, caused this wasp to meet it’s untimely end? Sleep deprivation? While it has not been determined that wasps sleep, they do enjoy periods of rest when they are in the hive. Without the comfort and security of home-sweet-home, this poor tired insect would have had to eventually expire from exhaustion. More likely starvation? It is known that wasps are able to survive up to 20 days without food. But this room has an endless supply of delicious wasp delicacies such as spiders, ants and flies. Whatever the circumstances, there is no longer any life left in this paper wasp. Is it missed by its hive mates? Do they know it is gone? Are lost comrades the price of doing business as a wasp? Will they mourn? Do wasps distinguish in their hive mates a singular dozy bzzzzzzzzz, an individual way of whispering wings and delicate limbs? While it can be safely assumed that this wasp died alone and afraid, its final resting place is a windowsill that matches the wasp point for point in the category of ordinary. Two ordinaries do not make an extraordinary but these ordinaries are the essential stuff of supporting a continuum. A dead wasp needs a final resting place and the world has not room for wasp graveyards, no economy for wasp funeral homes, no time for wasp mourning. The wasp needs an ordinary windowsill on which to die.


It’s Not Going to Stick: Evidence of Affixing

 It is a given that every occupant of this room has the use of this window for the duration of her stay, anywhere from one week to six. The window requirements of each individual may vary, depending on time of year, working habits and how the space is put to use. As the window requirements change this window is altered, presumably to control the amount of light that spills into the room. It is also quite possible that the window tampering is related to the level of reclusion desired by the resident. Leaving the window alone would register as a puncture in the division between outside and inside. As great a puncture as this one window is capable, that is. Degrees of exposure to the world outside could be controlled with various window treatments. Because most of us do not travel with a wide selection of window treatments, the window appears to have tolerated creative solutions that were not substantial enough to endure or were not quite suitable for the next tenant. The window bears the scars of these alterations and remains unwavering in its capability to offer a spectrum views beyond.


There are two staples, one in either corner of the upper horizontal section of the inner window frame. Any material held in place by these staples would have offered fairly complete coverage of the window as their foundational surface juts out beyond the windowpanes themselves about two inches. The staples are in a state of limbo—not entirely committed to the window but undeniably ensconced. They appear as if they are waiting for a finger to reach under their arches and pluck them away like ripe fruit.

There is only one nail present, on the far right upper corner of the outer frame, below the empty plastic blind bracket. It is a robust nail, not for the faint of heart, and appears to have been improperly applied causing a rather ominous split in the wood below. This application is analogous to using a machine gun to kill an ant. Perhaps the damage caused with the implantation of this nail explains why there is not a corresponding nail on the left corner of the window.  This method of affixing something to the window most likely was not followed through to completion—a failed attempt.

A single curl of tape clings tenuously in the upper right corner of the inner window frame. It is difficult to imagine why this lonely piece of adhesive is present under these circumstances. It is quite possible that paper was employed as a window treatment, which could have been installed with masking tape if it were the only solution at hand. It is also entirely within the realm of possibilities that completely unexpected items were taped here in this corner for no reason in particular—a piece of string, a small plastic comb, a cherry pit, a library card—anything at all. Now, the tape remains as mysterious as the object it once served.