When we were building the house I insisted on a window less than two feet off the floor by my desk. No one understood why I wanted a window that had its sill below the height of my desk. I wanted it for watching the world as it passed from season and showed us its stillness and its storms.
Sophie, our dog, arrived at our house at the end of summer in 2004. Until our house burned in 2012 when I worked at home, she slept under my desk. The desk had a window that was about 2 feet off the floor. Between naps she would stand with her front feet on a little stool I had and peer out the window. Sometimes she would watch for over an hour. Our new desk had to have a window for Sophie to watch the world from.
After the fire we lived for a year in a perfectly preserved house built in 1974. Everything was original. We called the Green Shag House in honer of its green shag carpet which matched the harvest gold appliances. None of us ever quite settled in that house and Sophie never figured out a place to sleep. Under my desk made no sense and there were no windows for her to peer out between naps. After we left that house and headed north from Idaho to live here in Montana, we never unpacked our desks in the various hotels and ski condos where we lived. Consequently it has been two years since she had desk to sleep under or a window to from which she could peer out and inspect the world.
To the best we could, our current desks and their configuration and the room they are in mirrors our house that burned. The desks we have now are nearly identical to what we had but the “watching” spot has an X of silver metal supporting the glass top. Additionally, for architectural and structural reasons, the window in front of my desk could not be 2 feet above the floor. As an alternative I designated the window to the side of my desk as Sophie’s window. I even found a stool just like the one we had. I say we because we time-shared that stool. I used it to prop my feet on while typing until she stretched and looked at it. I yielded the stool to her and she put her two front feet on it so she could look out the window. It worked well for both of us. She got to look out the window and I was reminded to give my body an anatomically correct adjustment in my chair.
Once the floors and windows were in the house and I was working on cabinets in the library/office, I excitedly showed her the window we built for her. It sounds silly but small things like that mean a lot anymore. The window is perfect architecturally and structurally so making it Sophie’s window was easy. She stood up on the stool and looked a bit and dropped her feet to the floor and strolled away. Over the past months I have shown her the window a few times. It is interesting enough but never was her window.
Yesterday she walked up to the window and tried to see out. Since she is 21 inches at the shoulder and the window is 23, she can’t quite make it. I quietly took our stool from under my feet and placed it under the window. She put her front paws on it and looked out. I looked in the direction she looked to see what she saw and as is wont to happen, I saw differently. Rather than just trees and leaves, I saw trees with leaves moving gently in the wind that preceded today’s storm. A few minutes passes and she dropped her front feet to the floor and walked away. I took possession of the stool again and the afternoon proceeded.
Today she was sleeping under my desk when a rain storm came in. It was not our usual summer thunder and lightening storm that makes her very worried. This was fall rain heralding the cold front that has arrived tonight. As soon as the rain started she moved from her dog bed under the desk and very intentionally with great ponderousness, wove her her way through several boxes of to-be-filed paperwork headed to what is now her window. As soon as I saw her path I took our stool from under my desk and placed it by the window. She stood for a long time looking contentedly out the window. After the shower passed she went back to her bed under my desk.
Another rain ban passed. She went from nap to window to watch the rain again. Another passed and Sophie was there to view it.
I am not sure why the rain interested her so much but clearly it did. This evening the clouds which today hovered over the tops of the mountains were pushed south by the cold front. As they cleared I could see the mountains emerging with their first serous snow of the snow year that starts each year on July 1. The mountain tops and flanks were covered with new snow.
The snow line is only a couple of thousand feet above our house. Tonight the temperatures have dipped into the 30s for the first time since last spring. I know winter is upon us. For the first time since the fall of 2011, we are prepared. After the house burned in 2012, we could not properly prepare in the temporary housing places we lived. The fall of 2012 we lived in the Green Shag House with our Coleman stove for our kitchen. The fall of 2013 we lived in a ski condo expecting to move from it in three months. We did not even bring any winter clothes. We eventually lived between the condo, family and hotels for a total of seven months waiting to get into our house. Everything was impermanent so preparing for winter in 2012 meant purchasing our winter clothes lost in the fire and winter of 2013 meant rummaging around in the warehouse to try to find some winter clothes we bought in 2012 but did not remember.
This fall our winter clothes are folded neatly into boxes or hanging in our closets. We have the food we canned: 100 jars of jams, vegetables and fruits. Our freezer is nearly full. The house is completed on the outside with one more fall task. In November I will rake small furrows across the areas disturbed by the construction and sew seeds that will lie dormant under the snow gathering their strength to burst forth in the spring. We plan to use seeds from the grasses in areas on our land that have not been disturbed. I will move over a few plants and hope that winter is good to them. By using plants and seeds from our own land we can keep the natural vegetation.
The deer come to feed each day, usually morning and afternoon. They range from the west to the east of the ravines that flank our property. They sleep down on the utility access path to our house. Already there is natural growth on the construction disturbed land. The deer are appreciative of the tender new grass so late in the season. Unfortunately we have our share of the noxious weeds Mullen and Canadian thistle which the deer won’t eat. I have made a concerted but not yet heroic effort to pull them. I am not fond of pesticides and always try hand weeding first. I rid our Idaho land of cheat grass though three years of hand pulling. It was a hard-won battle but I was happy we had conquered the problem without poison. Now that the rains are here it will be easier for me to pull the noxious weeds and enjoy the plant that seems to be taking over large patches of our ground, native mint. I am not sure why it is here since our soil is dryer than it should like but they are growing well and the deer don’t like them anymore than the like mullen and thistle so I count this as a positive development.
Sophie, from her front deck and now from her window has watched the cycles of the time we have worked on building and living in this house. She has watched winter change to spring and its transition to summer.
Now she is watching for fall. Sophie sees things we don’t see. I think she watches waiting to see something happen as opposed to us who look when something has happen. I imagine that there is more to be seen while she waits for something to happen than when she watches as something happens. Would that I could learn that vision for my own.