From My Window
Five people share their views as told to Anthony Jenkins.
This Headwaters region of ours is big, beautiful, distinctive and diverse. We view it large, a lovely broad backdrop in all seasons, when driving, biking, hiking, playing, running errands, meeting friends or proudly showing visitors around.
But it can be just as lovely, diverse and ours when seen through the smallest, most intimate of lenses. Here is Headwaters up close and personal, through five windows, and through the eyes and sensibilities of five residents.
“I’m delighted to spot an occasional equestrian backlit through the picket of trees. Maggie is less so, doing agitated laps of the coffee table, barking and peering through the window in outrage, paws on the windowsill.”
“Country common” best describes the view through the front picture window of our home – teardrop-shaped driveway with tangential two-car parking, flagstone path, boulder- and hosta-strewn garden and, through a slim barrier of firs, an earthen slice of a Mono sideroad.
From a comfy couch I survey this vista quite often. But much less often than our dog, Maggie, a Sheltie-Australian shepherd mix and vigilant watchdog.
All day, every day, between naps, walks and household life, Maggie watches for strolling neighbours, dog walkers, horse riders, audacious wild turkeys and any and all other intruders on her doggie domain, which encompasses dirt road, front lawn, bungalow and the meadows, trails and forest out back, all of which she delights in.
Maggie misses little. Except once, spectacularly, a big deer standing oblivious on our frosted front lawn, snorting early spring clouds of breath. I saw him first and distracted Maggie, at length, until the buck had passed.
She’ll announce any passerby on the road with an indignant growl or, less often, with a sharp, startling bark.
I’m delighted to spot an occasional equestrian backlit through the picket of trees. Maggie is less so, doing agitated laps of the coffee table, barking and peering through the window in outrage, paws on the windowsill.
At one time, every spring, the dirt drive became a bog and a source of irritation. Delivery truck drivers would leave foot-deep furrows and an unwelcome weekend chore to add to the list. I believe the drivers were in unofficial competition – ruts judged on depth, length and “artistic merit.”
The drive is paved now. Well, not actually paved. Tarred and chipped. This was less expensive and less effective than asphalt, but lacked the harsh, jet-black look my wife and I deemed “not country.” And country is why we are here.
The teardrop drive rings a central garden shaded by a big tree. Planted with ferns, periwinkle and bleeding hearts, the garden is garnished with boulders and a plant nursery menagerie: stone turtle, frogs and small ceramic snails.
A good half of the vista through the picture window is blocked – or perhaps graced – by the lower boughs of a very big spruce. In winter its branches bend low under snow. In summer they are home to small, swift birds with hidden nests, and serve as highways for chipmunks who chatter at our comings and goings.
Our comings and goings along a flagstone path pass another big fir, which anchors a long, horseshoe-shaped garden in which lavender perennially struggles. And in which, embarrassingly, stinkhorn mushrooms do not. These phallic-like fungi emit a ghastly smell, particularly once they die, topple and reduce to a disgusting goo. Nature balances every sublime cardinal backdropped by winter’s white with summer’s stinkhorns.
I once had a window that overlooked sidewalks, parked cars, paved road and the façades of houses with venetian blinds, always closed. That was Toronto, and that was then. I hope my eyes remain undimmed and my sensibilities unjaded at the wonderful view I now enjoy. From my window.
Choices Youth Centre · Orangeville
“Anytime I’ve been here in fall – and it’s been five falls – looking at that tree in the front yard would brighten my day a bit.”
Three years ago, when I was living in this shelter – I’ve been in and out of here since I was 16 – I’d get out of bed, come up and just sit on the edge of this kitchen table and look out this window. I had nothing out there. I was nowhere in life, just the clothes on my back. That’s what I woke up to.
You see a lot of things out this window – fights, people arguing, domestics, people leaving here after getting into something, breaking the rules, and being asked to leave. I sat on this table for eight hours one night. Sat and spoke to a staff member for hours and looked out.
At night you see a lot more interesting stuff. People who go to the bars on Broadway will walk down Townline, take the back side of town when they’re walking, to stay away from the main street. Orangeville police, if they have a reason to bug you, they’ll bug you. If you can take the extra five-minute walk and be loud, you’re going to do it.
The tree out in the front yard is much more interesting and beautiful in fall. Anytime I’ve been here in fall – and it’s been five falls – looking at that tree in the front yard would brighten my day a bit.
I’ve never climbed it. I hate to say it, but it’s not complicated enough.
I have a five-point harness in my car and my lanyard. I pull over on the odd sideroad now and climb a tree just for the sight from the top. Everybody has that one spot where they sit and kind of reflect. Now I have a big maple. For a long time the kitchen table here at Choices Youth Shelter was my spot. That’s where I sat, looking out this window.
I’ve mowed the lawn out there a time or two. I’ve shovelled that deck. I’ve raked the leaves into the same pile as I see out there now. Same leaves, same vehicles driving by, people in and out. I’ve been seeing that for years, but I don’t look out the window the same way anymore. I look at myself.
Looking out that window now, I have a job, I have an apartment, my puppy, two vehicles. I want to wake up in the morning. I want to go to work. I don’t have a lot of extra money to donate, so I come back here to Choices and I volunteer, offer to speak to the high school tours and to the residents here. That’s my way to give back.
There were a lot of people here, myself included, who didn’t have someone who had been through a bunch and was willing to say, “Hey, man, life sucks. Don’t let it bring you down. Push through it. Work for the things you want instead of just letting life pass by.”
Hillsburgh Rest Home
“There’s a beautiful lawn. I’ve been out on that lawn, walked around a bit, but never barefoot. It was a long time ago that I last went barefoot.”
I’m 96 years old.
I lived in Guelph a couple of times, and I liked Guelph very much. I’d just graduated from business college and I stayed with a lady who took in boarders – 1940 or 1941, I think it was – during the war, anyway. I had a window in front that looked out on the street, a nice residential street. But I have a country view now through this great big picture window.
There’s a porch with a railing that goes criss-cross. I have been out there, but I haven’t been out this year. You have to ask staff. I haven’t asked, but I could if I wanted to.
There’s a beautiful lawn. I’ve been out on that lawn, walked around a bit, but never barefoot. It was a long time ago that I last went barefoot. So long ago. It might have been at home, in my teens. I usually wore shoes. I wasn’t the kind to go around barefoot.
There’s a rail fence and some tall trees at the back. Beautiful trees. And then there’s water. That’s the Hillsburgh lake out there. I love water. I can swim, but if I was in the lake I wouldn’t swim out, I’d swim back.
The sun sets to the right, beyond the trees. I wouldn’t say rosy sunsets. You don’t get the pink and the orange colours too much.
There aren’t many flowers. No one seems to have the time for them. I’m very fond of peonies – it would be beautiful to look out and see rose peonies.
I’ve never had a garden of my own. One time in high school, we had a project and I planted nasturtiums in a row along the side of the porch and the house. Somebody would have to dig it for me now.
There’s a lovely shepherd dog. I don’t know his name. I just enjoy seeing him. I’ve never had a dog. My mother and father didn’t go for dogs and cats. If that dog was on the deck looking in the window at me, I’d go over and say, “Hello, Pup.” But I don’t think I’d be making any advances to a strange dog unless someone said it was alright.
I don’t have good eyes. I was born with weak eyes, and I just see out of one now. I don’t know if the view would be twice as pretty with two eyes, but it would be clearer.
I’m not one of those who sees God in nature. I don’t see God at work in trees and sky. He has already done His work. He gives us the daylight, the sun every day. He gives us the moonlight and the stars. He gives us nature. He gives us life itself.
I think it’s wonderful that He let me live so long and be well enough to get around and enjoy the view. My vision isn’t really clear, but I’m glad I can see what I can. I’m grateful for that.
“Sometimes I see our grandparents’ cats. They have a big barn full of cats that don’t have names, but I give some of them names.”
My mom and dad own the window. I get to look out it. I live in the country.
I can see a big backyard where me and my sisters, Ivy and Sloane, play. I’m the biggest.
There’s a playground with swings, a slide and another slide, and two floors of clubhouse. The top floor is my favourite. I call it “the upstairs.” My sisters go there, too. We can all fit, but I try to make them stay downstairs. They don’t listen.
We make snowmen in the yard. I usually build them, but my sisters help. Sometimes my dad comes and pushes the boulders to make them bigger. We find rocks and make eyes and a mouth. The snowman doesn’t get a nose.
Nana and Papa, my grandma and grandpa, have a farm next door. That’s their field. I see Papa on the tractor, a combine. He’s a farmer and farmers drive combines. Last year corn grew in that field. Corn for the cows – it’s hard.
My dad made the firepit with no chairs, only big grey boulders in a circle. My feet can touch the ground, but my sisters’ can’t. We roast marshmallows and make s’mores.
I have two cats that don’t go outside. They sit in the sunshine and look out the window, watching birds. They’re not supposed to sit on the table, but they do.
Sometimes I see our grandparents’ cats. They have a big barn full of cats that don’t have names, but I give some of them names. The blonde one I call Big Teenie. I read that name in a book somewhere.
A chicken came in the yard from our neighbours’. She wouldn’t leave. She stayed and ran around and dug a hole in the flower bed. I thought she was starting a nest maybe. We called her Heihei, from the movie Moana.
She was a nice chicken. She ate worms. She liked worms a lot! Sometimes, me and my mom dug them up to give to her. My mom did the digging. I don’t know how many worms Heihei could eat, but we couldn’t find enough!
In the morning I see reindeer footprints in the snow. Lots of them. If there was a reindeer out there now, I’d go out and ride it possibly, and I’d go to the North Pole!
I’d give it the cow corn. I’d pet it and make sure it felt comfortable and safe. I’d put corn on the ground so it would go down to get it, and I’d jump on and hold on to its antlers and tell it to go to the North Pole. Santa might have a window there and I’d go visit him.
Then I’d get back home on a flying reindeer. I’d look for the big red barn with cats at my Nana and Papa’s, and I’d go to the house beside it, the big house with the black roof and the big yard and the playground.
Tang’s Kitchen · Shelburne
“I like everything from this window. Some people with the pet dogs go around and I smile at them. In the summer, there is a farmers’ market.”
This is the waiting area. Most of the time I’m in the kitchen. I cut the vegetables, prepare the egg rolls, wontons, clean up, everything. If someone comes to order, I will be standing at the counter in front. Couple of minutes, that’s it.
I can see weather. It’s not really cold, but dark. The trees are grey and brown. Not too many people walk in the street. I feel sad.
I can see buildings. I feel a little bit of community with the people around. That is the tattoo store. I know them. Nice guy. I know the RBC bank. The staff are very good. We bank with them.
At night, for the holiday season, I see roadblocks checking that people don’t drink and drive. That’s good. Here is worse than in Hong Kong. In Canada almost everyone has a vehicle.
This street goes to Owen Sound up north. I come from Owen Sound, but China first: Hong Kong. I live here now. I feel at home here in Shelburne. Nice town.
I live up above. I block all the windows. I don’t see anything. I’m only at night upstairs.
More people come by in summer. Some people are really nice; they wave or smile. In Hong Kong, no people will say “Hi” if you don’t know them. They never will wave or smile or say “How are you?” We lived in an apartment. Nineteenth floor.
I like everything from this window. Some people with the pet dogs go around and I smile at them. In the summer, there is a farmers’ market on First Avenue every Thursday. Some people buy flowers or fruit and vegetables. I like this, it makes me happy. I went to the market just once – I’m too busy.
I put these plants in the window. That is the money tree. Someone sent it to us when we had our grand opening. It started three, four feet high. Now it is to the ceiling! That other plant, in the summer, has flowers and smells really nice. I look after the plants.
The sign in the window says, “Come in. We’re open.” The other side says, “Sorry, we’re closed.” I’m the one that turns it at 11:30 every morning, six days a week.
The best side is “Closed.” I feel released. Oh, my! I work 12 hours a day, at least. Sometimes there are people waiting when I turn the sign to “Open.” They are happy. I say, “Welcome!” and I am happy. This is my life.
This is a family business with my brother and sister. No children. My husband passed away over six years ago. My plan is to run this business three more years, then I will move to Caledon – or stay here. I like this town.
I hope it can be easier, without the hard work and rush and long hours. I hope I can take coffee or tea and enjoy just looking out the window.