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
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.