by Dr. Elizabeth McWhorter Hardin
Whoever invented windows must have been mentally challenged. I'd like to think that BW (before windows) people were happy-rather like living in a graveyard-nobody wanting in and nobody wanting out. So there was no compelling reason to look see.
Why is cleaning windows so humiliating? Why is it that ordinarily sane people-even those who are paid for hire-flee for their lives when window cleaning is mentioned? Of all domestic chores, why is this one rated first among the most despised, dreaded, and postponed?
Each spring the window-washing battle becomes less and less challenging. And it returns, regular as the seasons. I indulge in a private pity party, then get out the hose, brushes, Windex, Fantastic, paper towels, old fabric towels, squeegee, stepladders, and head outside. I put on my big picture hat and wear dark sunglasses.
I'm going about 30 mph, hosing down each window, brushing the shutters, applying the Fantastic, drying off the shutters with the fabric towels, and applying Windex to the glass before polishing the panes with paper towels.
My mind wanders as I settle into my routine. Chief, my neighbor's dog, wanders over seeking attention with his tail wagging for a few pets. I take the time from my drudgery to minister to his needs. Time that in our busy lives has become a rare collectible.
Suddenly, a butterfly lights on the flowering hedge to become my companion for a spell. I have see a lot of butterflies, but have never taken the time to closely observe them. This one is a shimmering rainbow, a stunning kaleidoscope of gold and black and orange. I watch his antennae as they touch the small flowers. I am fascinated by his movement-in concentric circles from left to right-over and over again. There is such delicacy about his form and such beauty in his movements that his routine doesn't seem to be mundane.
The robins are nesting out in the big Elm tree. They go about their task happily twittering. Building a nest is a cooperative venture, which takes effort to compact the mud and straw. I cannot help but notice their patience, as straw by straw the nest takes shape. I can vision the sky blue eggs, followed by four tiny heads peeping out over the edge of the nest. Then mother will edge them out when it is time to take wing. Her maternal instincts will watch over them until they can fly solo.
As the long morning drifts into afternoon, I am at the last window and cannot believe it. Where has the day gone? Was I completely frazzled from anticipated tedium and boredom?
Not this time because of what I've learned from nature's audience: from Chief, the knowledge that both animals and humans need love; from the butterfly, a recognition that beauty, harmony, and industry can co-exist; and from the robin, that most of life is a perch, not a nest. I have to wonder why so many humans never teach their young to fly solo and call their act protection while clipping their wings.
From all of them, I learned the need for persistence, patience, and an unquestioning acceptance of mundane routine. One could do worse than be a washer of windows.
Dr. Elizabeth McWhorter Harden, graduated from Russell County High School, KY and ended her academic career as Dean of the Department of English at Wright State University, Dayton, OH. She wrote this piece at the farm where she grew up and has been a friend to Nash Black for more years than either care to count. We thank her for the thought provoking contribution to the Ono Almanac.
The sketch of the woman washing windows was drawn by Russell County's Barbara Appleby.