Finding Solace at the Window

I think of all the electronic literature pieces I have experienced so far, Windows is the one that resonated with me the hardest. If I wasn’t already sold on the practice and principle of digital literature already, this piece would have made me a fan.

That being said, it’s heartbreaking knowing that I cannot experience Windows at my own pace, having to settle with a brief video that acted as my window inside. It is alright however because I think navigation piece isn’t the most important part. Content is.

According to the editorial statement found on the page, it “seeks to capture a sense of space for readers to enter”, and I believe it did so. Enter what, though? Windows provides a few lines, introspective passages and ambient sounds, but can it be said that we are meant to look into the ‘narrators’ head and not a mirror of what we can perceive? We all have windows, have we not have had moments of deep thinking and pondering when gazing outside looking for answers? The passages were observations made according to what the ‘narrator’ sees, but I’d like to argue that as unique as those situations are, I feel there are parts of us who have had moments such as those – people-watching (according to one passage) and thinking about the mundane activities we do. It’s all part of the little moments in life that help make everything feel cosmically important, whether or not it holds importance outside of the ‘window’.

One of my favorite passages has to be “At first I felt this was a rather pointless, obsessive behavior. I’d miss my train. Lately I have become less naive about my priorities. I have realized that looking closely at trees is quite essential.” It’s a beautiful way to see something that appears ‘pointless’. I think that’s the strength of introspection, it allows one to be alone with their thoughts and make sense of the world through their own lens, which I feel the atmosphere of Windows helps provide. I see it as the ‘narrator’ questioning herself through the viewpoint of society and what they deem is important, then taking a step back to think about how they don’t feel that way. What they are doing at that moment is important to them only, and that’s okay.

I feel Windows acts a momentary break in life that is often underappreciated. Modern society has always had a constant noise stream to it, whether it be through street lights or car engines going that it almost masks the intimate moments we can have hidden within them. I’m not saying that all of society is like this, but the busy energy is considered a ‘mainstream’ perception of life that it overshadows other parts of it. I think that is why Windows is filled with ambient sounds we can find at home, there will always be noise around us but there can be a moment of respite. They almost act as the soundtrack of the world.

I can’t say for sure if anything I perceived was intended by the author, but like I said previously I think electronic literature has the ability to give us the control necessary to shape our own experiences when ‘reading’ them. In that sense, Windows felt like a comforting embrace long since passed. In being busy with everything that is going on, it’s easy to forget to take it easy and appreciate what is happening now rather than losing sleep over the past and future. I can even admit that I felt teary-eyed reading it.

When I finished reading Windows, it immediately reminded me of one of my most cherished memories. Bear with me a bit, it’s personal but I want to exemplify how it amplified my reading and appreciation of this piece. During one of my years at Rutgers, I went through an extremely rough patch in my life that I found almost every little thing irritating. I couldn’t stand the fluttering of my ceiling fan, the buzzing of the heater in the room, the shuffling of neighboring feet in the hallways and especially the heavy rain that occurred that night. Not even putting headphones in to listen to music helped. I think it was about 1-2 A.M. when the previously annoying rain drops became serene, its rhythmic patting on the window like a mesmerizing song. I moved my chair to the window and sat there for about half an hour, watching the rain flicker through the streetlights. It was a beautiful scene that I had to go outside and capture that moment.

Image by Hugo Gatica

At that moment nothing really seemed to matter anymore, I stood there in that moment appreciating the scenery over stressing about what hasn’t happened yet. I went back inside an hour later soaked in rainwater but I didn’t mind it. The rain washed over any negative thoughts I had.

Solace is a beautiful thing to appreciate sometimes, and I think Katharine Norman did a wonderful thing to create an experience that seems simple in concept but utilizes its simplicity and mundane nature to comment on the necessity of taking things slow and appreciating the ‘quiet’ we can find in life. It’s a concept I’m constantly pursuing in my own visual work, so I’m happy to have found a piece that resonated with my feelings. Windows is a gentle reminder of the importance in being an observer and to me a reminder to find light in the dark.

Image by Hugo Gatica