In the Stamullen house our bedroom came without a window. How we fell in love and rented the place without realizing is a mystery. I’m still a Kansas girl and spring temps or fall breezes cause a Pavlovian reflex in me, a subconscious emotional need to open a window before getting into bed.
This room, even though surprisingly large and with American-style built-in closets, only boasted a tiny balcony, just large enough for a 2-year old to go missing during a rather daring game of hide and seek. Propping those glass doors open at night didn’t quite have the same Midwest effect, nor did it seem very safe. Still, we managed, and the view overlooking our neighbours’ baby gardens wasn’t too bad. We lived in rural Ireland, after all, and it quickly became home.
Several years later, in our current Irish house, our wee-bit-tinier bedroom boasts a large bay window. Four tall panes of glass gaze out upon the adjacent road, the open grassy field across the way and a few dozen mature trees. We are not overlooked and we overlook no one. The house opposite us sits perpendicular to ours; where we face south, they’re looking east. Orange berries dot their shrubs. We share a front garden with our semi-detached neighbour, with two young, fruit-bearing trees turning towards autumn and our very own burning bush. Miniature coloured leaves are just beginning to litter the curbs, almost as if some child grabbed an armful on the first windy day, throwing them up in the air and letting them fly and land wherever they may.
And from my vantage point, from my cracked-open bedroom window, with the sun just shining in from the west and my view south towards the mountains, I am eye-level with reds and oranges. I sit at this old Singer sewing machine-turned-writing desk and realise the red crab apples are glowing bright. The dark grey of the sky is decorated with the rusty tops of trees. All creation is afire and it’s a shame I haven’t noticed it till today.
I’m not really paying attention, distracted by nothingness, by facebook and twitter and the most recent theories on Doctor Who. I meander from kitchen to office to bedroom without looking outside. My children are at school so the mornings lay out with tantalizing possibilities and all I really want to do is scroll through distant friends’ remains of the day or get back into bed and close my eyes.
I have a gratuitously lovely bay window to watch the seasons change and I’ve ignored it. And now that nature is starting her long, autumnal farewell party, that the bright appetizers are just now being served, I don’t want to miss out, don’t want to stay hunched and hidden.
I want to grab and taste and laugh with the party guests, with the neighbour children who visit our garden. Their chubby hands reach high in the air, pulling and filling a plastic bucket with those crab apples, running away with mischievous smiles. I want to wrap myself in orange and kick some leaves in the air. I want to sit, and think, and look, and write, while the sky above me drifts slowly out to sea.
* * *
I only remember the Juniper house in autumn and how the street-covering canopies were protectively tall. I only remember my small feet walking home from school, the crunch of leaves with every shuffle. I only remember the apple tree in our backyard and the day they cut it down. Every one of my earliest memories are decorated with trees, with autumn, and with the changing of everything around me.
I wasn’t yet old enough to open windows.