A View From My Windows
Descriptions of nature as seen through the windows of every room I’ve lived in.
Karlov Ave, Skokie, IL – Window faces West
The house is one floor, ranch-style. The town is typical suburbia. Cookie-cutter houses and lawns. My room looks out at the backyard, which my grandmother cares for full time. In summer, it is an explosion of saturated green. The fence is completely hidden by bushes, vines, and flowers. If you lie down on the grass, you feel as though you've been swallowed by green, punctured only by the bright blue sky. On some days it’s so picturesque suburbia it seems almost satirical. It’s pretty, but you can tell it’s constructed. It’s nature as a Lego set. Each bush and flower have been carefully picked out from Home Depot (then positioned after extensive discussion). Each weed diligently pulled. The lawn cut exactly once a week as per village code.
There is not a great variety of animals: mostly birds, rodents, and insects. Of these, the birds are probably the most interesting and certainly the most beautiful. I couldn’t tell you any of their names, but it’s nice to occasionally look through my window to see a brilliant blue bird sitting on the apple tree, or a striking red one, and sometimes even a magnificent yellow one. Their songs fill the air during the day, providing some pleasing background noise to your afternoon drink on the patio. Unfortunately, my otherwise good-natured cat, who looks exactly like a miniaturized black panther, thoroughly enjoys decapitating them. At night, the screech of the cicadas is constant, to the genuine alarm of people who come to visit, who wonder how we ever get a wink of sleep. We have completely tuned them out.
I doubt most of the plants are native to the area. Two skinny trees sit in the middle of the yard to the right of my field of view, one apple and one peach. The peach tree has died and been replaced twice. Despite my family's best efforts, I doubt either will ever produce anything edible. The moment they start to bud every year, the squirrels attack immediately and devour every last hope of ever growing our own fruit. My mother and grandmother do keep a vegetable garden, but it suffers from the same problem, so the only food that reliably grows there is cucumbers. The yard looks serene on the surface, yet sometimes it seems as though nature is leading a resistance against us. The plants must be forced to behave in this environment. The only things that love growing here are the weeds, yet they are unceremoniously ripped out as often as possible. Less than 100 years ago all of this was endless wild prairie marshlands, and now it’s been cut, groomed, tamed, and regulated. It’s nice, but not beautiful.
ul. Lazar Ivanov, Plovdiv – Southeast
This time it’s an apartment on the second floor. My room also looks out over the back, which is a collection of parking spaces and garages encircled by more mid-rise apartment buildings. Little protrusions of greenery dot the concrete landscape. Bushes stick out of crevices. Little vines crawl up buildings. A tall plum tree from the yard of an adjacent house hangs over one of the garage roofs. As kids, we would climb the dark green metal ladder from our side and walk over the roofs to pick some plums. My Bulgarian friends ate them without hesitation, but my American upbringing made me wary of eating random fruits off someone else’s tree.
I love the sunrise from this window. Right before the dawn breaks, there's this cold tension in the air. The blocks look drab and imposing. Then, a little orange sliver appears along the top of one of the buildings opposite ours. It starts crawling down, embracing the cold façade with its warm glow until soon this huge slab of concrete has turned into a massive golden ingot. For a few precious minutes, you could even call the landscape beautiful. Then it subsides and returns to its “natural” state.
Lunt Ave, Chicago, IL – South
I am very young and don't remember much. The window looks out onto an alleyway and then the next building over; a narrow landscape of brick and asphalt. There is a potted plant which sits defiantly on the window sill.
Unnamed Road, Vranya, Bulgaria – Southwest
As a kid I come here with my grandparents sometimes. It's the village my grandfather grew up in, south of Blagoevgrad, very close to the Greek border. Every morning starts with the rooster’s shrill greeting to the sun, followed by the donkey's alarmed braying. I stick my head out the window to see (and smell) the neighbor herding his goats down the street. Looking up, I can see kilometers of vineyards and other crops sitting in long, neat rows. A little way off I can see the family garden. It’s the exact opposite of the one in Skokie. Disorganized, half-wild, but it yields all kinds of fruit and vegetables. I can see our modest little vineyard as well, remembering how I was fascinated when my grand-uncle showed me the simple but brilliant way they irrigate them.
At night, I put down some blankets and lay down on the balcony. It sounds cliché, but the number of stars in that night sky never ceases to amaze me. I am used to the black sky of the city. Some nights I stare at it for hours. It seems as though someone has poked a billion tiny holes in the night sky and is shining a light through it. There are so many, and so densely packed, I wonder how it’s even dark out.
ul. Pliska, Blagoevgrad – Northwest
I've just moved in. It’s a small apartment on the 6th floor. This is the highest up I've ever lived, which provides an interesting perspective. My window looks out over the measly river, but my view of it is obscured by the tall trees that grow on either side. From up here, even their highest branches sit at eye level. Looking straight ahead, it’s a wall of greenery with little holes through which I can spy parts of the buildings on the other side of the river. Little protrusions of concrete dot the green background. Directly below me there is a farmer's market every Wednesday. On those mornings, I love watching the people do their shopping from a bird's-eye view. It's more personal than watching dots move around from a skyscraper, but still removed enough to give me this strange but comforting feeling of serenity. It’s the same feeling I get when watching the birds from my window in Skokie, but even greater and somehow more meaningful. I just watch them go about their days, each species collecting food in their own way.
This essay was originally submitted as a written assignment for ENG 340 American Nature Writing (Fall 2021).