“Desirable views have a hint of mystery. We like to understand and enjoy what is happening around us, and to imagine that if we traveled from where we are into the unknown we would meet with pleasant surprises…” – Psychology Today
When we first arrived back to Thailand, the skies were muddy and grey. They didn’t possess white bright clouds that you wished you were rolling around in. This was late January.
As I stared up I started to miss the pristine skies of Hawaii. I found myself regularly watching it like you would a garden you want to grow or like a nosy neighbor.
Then when we made the decision to settle down in Chiang Rai, we were fortunate enough to have an apartment waiting for us that boasted good views. Not spectacular or amazing views, but third floor views that allowed us to see the distant mountains, bridges, rooftops, and trees from a few vantage points.
I took windows for granted as a child growing up in America. In Hawaii it’s common to have horizontal slatted windows. Although in the Continental US, windows seemed more like the ones you used to draw as a kid with the cross in the center. Later I learned when the missionaries came to Hawaii they built small windows to keep the heat in like they did back in their cold climate homes.
When I moved to SE Asia though, I discovered that windows had bars as a protective measure against thieves. This certainly changes your view. For me it challenged all that grade school training on fire drills and escaping from a burning family home.
Windows also are harder to clean when there are bars across it. Some windows didn’t have screens either, and for a tropical climate, the idea of not being able to let fresh air in without all the dengue-carrying mosquitoes frustrated me. I’m a practical gal.
I never liked windows though. I mean, yes, of course, I love a view, but I always found windows to be distracting! It’s nice to look out windows at school. That’s me! I’d exclaim whenever I saw a child daydreaming with their eyes to the sky.
Work was worst. I avoided them. Big offices with bigger windows looked great, but were a kind of personal nightmare for a creative person like me. If you want me to work, you better keep me away from a window with a view.
At one office job in Portland Oregon, I worked with a team of administrative assistants in a cube farm. We laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. Then my boss wanted to move me closer to her in a corner, away from my colleagues and with a window view. I fought it for as long as I could, knowing that this spot would be the death of happiness and productivity for me.
And as I sat there, I learned to watch the cat across the street, and leaned into the loneliness. I understood why Mary, who sat next to me, got up frequently from her desk to socialize and talk on the phone with her boyfriend. Or why Brian listened to podcasts and music in his own tiny space. I always found it peculiar the wedding photo he chose to have at his desk; his wife and him are slow dancing, possibly it’s the first at the reception. It shows his wife looking over his shoulder and her eyes are wide with a strange expression of either fright or astonishment – or both.
Now of course, I do like to look out of windows while traveling. But not so much when I’m flying. I get quite sick when flying and looking out the window does not ease the discomfort. But on a train or a road trip, I can’t imagine how else you’d let go of the time. There’s something romantic, soothing,and maybe even exciting about looking out windows then.
But now the skies are bright blue with the occasional rain storm. I watch the cats across the street navigate the roof tops. Two of them meet there in the mornings before the roof gets too hot. The other day, the black one lay in the groove of the roof with its paw hanging over as if to say, “It was a rough one last night”. His spotted friend was next to him lounging Cleopatra-style.
The birds tell a different story. Their claws make scratching noises at one window; at another, they hangout on the wires. And unlike the cats, they are quite talkative. It’s another world up here.
I remember visiting a friend’s apartment on the 20th floor and was astonished to see that they did not have windows in the main living area. The picture perfect living room gave way to the dining room and then an open balcony.
“This is amazing! But aren’t you worried about mosquitoes?”
“Nah, they can’t fly this high. We don’t have a problem with bugs.”
“Wow. That’s awesome.”
“Yeah, but the birds, now that’s another story,” she pointed to the rubber snake near the light.
“Our friend keeps them away.”
When I look out one window, I often see planes flying by. It reminds me of childhood when I looked up and wished I was on that plane. Or when I wondered where they were going. Now, I can tell that they are heading to the airport or leaving. It still captures my imagination though.
My first attempt at poetry was “Looking Out my Window” when I lived in Barstow, California. I was most likely 13 or 14. Funnily, it wasn’t much of a view, just the empty backyard and wooden fence, but it was enough for me. I don’t know what it is about looking out windows that inspire us to write songs, poetry, and words that attempt to capture the feeling of dreaming, reflecting, or contemplating.
When I visited a friend’s apartment in New York City after college graduation, I was shocked that her only window looked out at a brick wall. Psychologically, I wondered at the implications of having no view. This was until I moved into apartments in Chiang Mai where my first few places had horrible views. Our first apartment looked out at squatters in their ramshackle homes, living illegally behind the building. My partner at the time told me he watched in shock a little girl defecate near the apartment. Our other window didn’t offer anything better, a huge electrical transformer.
One of the places I lived at was so close to the apartment next to us that I listened to a retired foreign man speak incessantly to himself. Presumably drunk, he cursed the ants in his microwave on a daily basis, presumably sober he called his bank long distance to complain about his money. One time he was too drunk to get up and wailed and moaned loudly his voice creating an echo between the two buildings. I didn’t last long at that place.
These were early years in my expat journey when I didn’t know any better. My friend Nali did though. When I was helping her look for a place to live I asked her what she was looking for – and she simply said, “A view”. As we drove through the tiny streets of Chiang Mai, and checked out available rooms, I got to see what her qualifications really meant. The place she ended up choosing was not anything special and her window was small, but it did provide a view out at a desk, and that was good enough for her.
Recently, I’ve been watching the sky for rain. When the 13 boys were trapped in a nearby cave, I felt the sweltering humidity, but I didn’t want it to rain. Nobody did. But these days, my view does provide a look at imminent weather, and the possibilities on the horizon.
How important is a view to you?