I have three windows in my writing room that invite a sense of quiet every morning. They are windows that I have gathered through my penchant for collecting architectural salvage. For me, having an old house retrofitted with period structural bits offers a dwelling that has stories attached to every corner. Stories of where pieces originated; stories of the people I have met while gathering; stories that seemingly have literally come out of the woodwork. It’s like importing ideas that originated in the houses from other places and of former generations.
Incorporated into my tiny house are pieces that were once in city mansions: like the tall, twelve-pane hinged windows that face east and shower my work space with sun and moonlight. There are bits that took time to find, like the six-over-six pane windows from Cobourg; or the nine-pane wooden front door from an early house in Colborne. The viridian tinted screen door at the back entrance was found in a city back alley on garbage day.
Near Brockville I discovered the small metal industrial window that is now installed in the guest bedroom. It was chosen for matching pane size and the dimensions of others. I also liked the way that the bottom section fanned out to invite an updraft of morning breeze. It was the same salvage business where sparked the idea of copper screening to keep the bugs at bay in warmer months. There were a series of these screens in a barn that the vendor said came from a cottage in the Thousands Islands. It was the patina of aging copper that made them so attractive. I wasn’t ready for them at the time, but the idea stuck. Just recently I was able to track down a roll of copper screen and had screen windows made. It wasn’t until they were installed that I realized how the sun embellishes the view through the tones of copper; it may be why I have been slow to change over to winter storm windows. The truth is the lull of the fallto- winter transition has lured me into putting off the reality of the coming cold. It’s a skill I have developed over the years—like waiting ‘til ice-up to put my bike away.
One day when I first moved here, someone spotted the work being undertaken on my house and asked if I could use additional wooden windows. The couple had gathered a collection of matching pairs and had them restored to complete a period renovation of their home. Somehow the ideal of County life had not unfolded in a way that matched the couple’s needs. They were leaving, they said. The next day I awoke to find six sets, upper and lower sashes, carefully placed along the side of my barn. All of those windows are now installed in my house, a house that has weathered the County dream.
The aesthetic of installing pieces of a house from centuries past is more than just the fashion of re-use. I am surrounded by functional house fittings that have been touched by former lives. I had a friend who was a violin maker. He would search out old pine house beams from the demolition yard. The wood grain was stable and perfectly aged for his crafting. What has always stayed with me was his intuitive perception that the voices of families of the past who lived in those now demolished houses resonated with the playing of his violins. I find in a similar way that there is human warmth of doors and ceiling boards and wooden baseboards and porcelain door knobs that have gathered from former buildings like estranged family members to add to the wellness of my house of many parts.
The blue jays now call through my open window as the softness of day scatters in. In fact, I never got around to write about what I had originally intended. It often happens that way, by me simply pausing to contemplate the 12 panes of light that fills the room as witness to the seasons.