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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Don’t Do Windows…

Good riddance, streaksMany years of dwelling in rental housing, most of it, by the way, spent in apartments, led us here to our one slim acre in the Valley. When we were looking for a building site, our criteria were simple: find property suitable for a home, enough left over for an expanse of lawn to landscape, rich soil to raise a vegetable and flower garden, space enough to accommodate a stand or two of honeybees—and plenty of exposure to sunlight. We looked at wooded properties and thought, “If we built here, we might as well build on the dark side of the moon.” Sunlight…open space…in this vale of rain, drizzle, fog, damp and SLD (“seasonal light disorder”), let the sunshine in was our top priority. And so we purchased our narrow little acre of pasture land. Not a tree or shrub on the place; only pasture grass waist high in summer. (Well, that’s where the sun doesn’t shine anyway.)

In 1979 our daughter joined us, and our cozy little rambler seemed crowded; we needed more elbowroom, so we added on our “sunroom,” as we called it because this space was pretty much enclosed by glass: two skylights, windows to the north and south, large floor to ceiling windows to the west. Let it shine, let the brightness in, capture what there is of the stingy winter light. This quest for light was and is fine and good, but onto all this glass a little darkness must fall.

Windows.  Glass. They seem to be magnets for speckles of dirt, composite film from day to day contact with the great out-of-doors, and whatever other airborne stuff  happens to brush up against the panes. Such accumulation can’t be allowed, of course: it isn’t tidy and flies in the face of the old saying about cleanliness. Twice a year—spring and fall—my wife  launches that old, familiar lament:“I have to do something about those windows!” There’s a saying in this household, and I claim modest credit for its origin. Come to think of it, I’m the only one who uses the phrase: “Low priority!” To be sure, we all have our priorities. The only time specks, spots, and smears are noticeable, to me at least, is when the afternoon sun highlights them as it gently sinks lower on  the horizon; in the morning hours those same windows are crystal clear. At least to this observer…. But when the afternoon sun backdrops those large plates of glass, it’s obvious the windows are “stained.”

In mid-October when the sun’s position in the western sky is at its optimum declination for show and tell,  my wife’s birthday rolls around. As the years churn by, it’s harder and harder to think of an appropriate gift to commemorate  the occasion. This year, however, when the first refrain of “I have to do something about those windows,”echoed in the autumn air, a wonderful idea came to me.“Why not gift the birthday girl with a window washing service!” Not only was the gift practical, but I wouldn’t have to wrap it!

Just a bit of internet research and the service was acquired. Brad of pulled into the driveway promptly at the appointed time. He began at once, removing ladders and equipment and set to work loosing the window screens and hosing them down.  Then he addressed the windows. Talk about a thorough job! When you’re paying for a service, you can’t help but look over your shoulder a time or two…you know, just to see if your money’s working as it was intended. As discreetly as possible, I went about my business, the entire time superintending Brad’s every move over my shoulder: the outside surfaces first, then inside for the indoor surfaces. Pretending to putter about in the garden, two or three times I watched Brad exit the house to redo the western plate glass windows (ah, yes…the west, that tattletale direction for dirt). “I’m not satisfied with that, “Brad muttered as once again he hauled his stepladder outside to remove some defiant speck of residue from the plate glass. Then up on the roof  he clambered to do battle with the skylights.

Just short of two hours Brad had the windows—excuse the cliché—“squeaky clean.” You would be hard pressed to find the slightest mote of dirt on any window inside or out. I sent Brad on his way with a hearty “thank-you” and a twenty dollar tip. Now with the glass “wrapped” in a sheen of clean, I could focus on baking the birthday cake. The wife was overwhelmed by her gift and the welcome reprieve from the squeegee, the trailing garden hose and the task of squirting the suds off the windows.

When you live in a farming community beside a busy state highway, dirt and grime are everywhere. You raise enough dust weekly yourself  just by mowing the lawn, tilling  the garden, and shaking out your farmin’ clothes on the deck. And the windows? They bear the dust brunt, it seems. Brad’s window service was so thorough the windows maintained their luster for a long time.

Four months have passed. Now spider webs trail across the glass and spider dribble trickles down the panes.  How unsightly! One feathered guest from the bird feeder out back dusted himself off on a western window, adding  a fossil-like bird print to the glass collage. How irritating! And just last week a starling with a fully loaded alimentary canal collided with a pane, leaving behind at least a pound and a half of spatter. How disgusting! But little handprints on a two hundred dollar window washing service….handprints



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