21 November 2011

open curtain policy

on Saturday after a successful holiday shopping trip followed by coffee with a friend near downtown, I walked the long way home via Bræðraborgarstígur. The weather was starting to grow chill after a mild day, and a light drizzle had fallen during my coffee hours, so the dark pavement gleamed under the streetlights. This neighborhood is the postcode of so many parts of my life here, particularly along Öldugata, my first Icelandic address. It's a great street for walking, as is Bræðraborgarstígur, particularly just after dark when everyone's home and cozy, preparing dinner or just hanging out.

It's also a neighborhood that's not much inclined towards curtains, and just like old houses in Vermont, the oldest ones are built closest to the road, so a pedestrian feels almost part of the tableau within. There's that studenty looking kjallaríbúð at knee level, the sink piled with dirty dishes in the 80s-style kitchen. Next, the warmly lit living room lined with books, a bright red toddler-sized dress hanging on a door beam. I glance into one on the corner where my head's level with the bottom of the window, a girl on her laptop behind a lacy paper window decoration.

The views into windows here is a theme I've mentioned a few other times, like when I first moved here and was living in the same neighborhood, and again some months later when I was walking through the area where I live now. Compared to some other nations, like Germany, where curtain-drawing is an essential dusk routine, I wonder why it is that the people I live among don't seem to bother pulling the curtains. Do they like the virtual participation of the passersby? Are they proud of their nice decor, do they simply feel like there's no point in closing the curtains when everyone knows your business anyway? Maybe they're just trying to keep track of what the latest incarnation is of the ever changing weather.

This is my own reason for not wanting to pull the shades, at least. I'm always popping out to the balcony to see if perhaps it's clear enough for northern lights, to admire the moon or the stars, to smell the night air or listen to the clatter of people on the street below. During the dusk and dawn hours, I want to have full sky visibility for maximum cloud and sun-effect enjoyment. It helps to live on the top floor with strategically placed windows so I'm not sharing quite as much as those houses I passed on Saturday, but I have added something in case anyone does glance heavenward and see my tiny window. I've set a millefiori bowl there, illuminated from within on occasional nights, my small contribution to the patchwork of color that is downtown Reykjavik.


George A said...

Why not post a pix of that bowl in your window? I enjoy your blog. It's good to see more posts.

George in Maryland

ECS said...

it's there for those who glimpse so maybe if you're walking the right street someday you'll see it :)

Mary said...

What a thrill to check your blog and find that you have resumed writing more often! This post takes me on a walk through Reykjavik until I can be there doing it in person.

Mary in Northern Califoria

Jono said...

Living in the country no one gets too close to the house to see what we're up to. We have some shades on the south side for when the glare of the sun on the snow gets too intense, but otherwise I crave the light. Also, glad you are back.

ECS said...

Mary: glad to take you on the tour with me! I do feel like these little neighborhood views are one of my favorite things about living where I do, so I love writing about them.

Jono: sometimes I think Icelanders in Reykjavik still imagine they live in the country- at least they definitely tend to drive like that! Maybe it's just a carryover from the rural days, this open-curtain feature.

George A said...

Maybe it is a country thing. I grew up in the sticks of rural Pennsylvania and we never drew the drapes. The nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away. My Swedish mother-in-law grew up in a town in southern Sweden and when she comes over to our house she's always drawing the drapes, lowering the blinds, etc. It drives me Crazy!

George in Maryland