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Points Of View

By Tina Traster

May 31, 2007 -- My house has 31 windows. Every morning I lift the blinds, and the rhythms of the world outside put my day in motion.

If the school bus has already whizzed by, I know we've slept too late. If there's no birdsong, it's time to fill the feeders. A ferocious wind atop our mountain road could mean loss of electricity - I must scamper downstairs and back up my computer.

My windows help me keep time based on the play of light and shadows, the intensity of traffic and the grazing of the deer. This primal relationship with the outdoors is new for me - most of my life I lived in a Manhattan apartment, where the views outside were just slivers of sky or brick.

Regular readers of this column know that I moved to rural Rockland County more than 18 months ago, into an 1850s farmhouse that needed a top-to-bottom renovation.

In rebuilding the second floor, we raised the roof and installed large windows on every wall. On the ground floor, we cut through exterior walls and enlarged window openings to bring the outside in. We also have skylights in the bathroom, my home office and the kitchen. Today, every room in the house is flooded with air and light.

Each morning at my house, I sit down at my desk in my home office. When the blizzard of iridescent purple grackles fill the tree branches outside my window, I know it's 10:30 a.m. And it is, every time, without fail. Their visit prompts me to get up, stretch and make a cup of green jasmine tea.

My three cats and I know when it's 12:02 p.m. The quarry a mile away starts blasting, the house shudders, and the cats and I acknowledge that we're still here.

Sometimes my next-door neighbor brings her two young sons outside onto her deck, which I can spy from my office window. She's blowing bubbles, her face stretched skyward as her young son leaps up to catch the foamy suds. In New York City, a slice of life is captured from a park bench or outdoor café. Here, I watch ordinary moments, up close and personal, from my window.

I hear the tin mailbox clack shut and the little white mail truck groan as it clambers up the mountain road. Time to step outside, get some fresh air and collect the mail. I sit in the dining room to eat lunch and read the newspaper.

As usual, I'm pulled away from the news in Iraq because Joseph, the octogenarian who lives across the street, has heaved his car into oncoming traffic so he can pull up alongside his mailbox, which is in front of my house, and reach in without getting out of his car.

(Joseph has been here since the 1950s and still thinks this road is a remote mountain pass with little traffic. It isn't.) I hold my breath until he makes a sharp turn into his driveway.

The stir of after-school traffic on the road tells me it's after 3 p.m., and I have just a couple of hours to wrap up my workday before my toddler comes home.

By late afternoon, the sun slips below the tree line. Like clockwork, a parade of deer crosses the road and hoofs down to our craggy woods, foraging for the apples they've come to expect. I love watching these lovely, lithe creatures graze. When they finish, they move on, deep in the woods, to hunker down for the night.

As evening approaches, the setting sun fills my kitchen with a brooding purple light. The trees are silhouetted against the night's dusky sky. The birds feed for the last time before it gets dark.

After we eat, the night winds down with rituals. There's the cleanup, the bath, reading stories and goodnight kisses. But the day's really over when I release the blinds, sealing off all 31 windows. The hum and buzz and dazzle of daylight are replaced with the dark, quiet night.

As I drift to sleep, there are no distractions. No sirens. No chattering pedestrians. No din. The room is dark, and I have eight hours to sleep.

I think about the day that has passed and the one that will come. I don't know what chaos or surprises await, but I do know that when I get up I will be comforted by some predictability. I will raise the blinds and the school bus will whoosh by, the birds will visit and the sun's light will fill my house for another day.

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