Since moving in I have been parsimonious with what goes in the house. The norm is to load up on end tables and bottle openers with soft, comforting grips, a new TV, pots and plants in them. I have not indulged. The washer and dryer were the largest expense, bought used at the outset. Shelves cost about as much but were more fulfilling to assemble and more essential to the house mission. Blinds were one more thing that could always wait for the next credit card billing cycle. Towels and blankets keep the light out, and I don’t mind them. The cat has no opinion.
October and November were months for towels and blankets. There was no light to let in and there was plenty to adjust to. The walls vibrated newness at night and I listened to the echoes bouncing in the dark, cars purring by outside. Blankets and towels over the windows were dark, present and heavy, insulating. I may have been hiding. I needed a closer, limiting space.
As a little kid I made pillow forts with blanket roofs and ramparts. Pillow columns allowed for soft tunnels, bulkheads, pliable redoubts. I remember my Ohio bedroom with the bright rectangle of the window muted by a green muslin drape. I loved to sit in the filtered shadow, some hint of the trees outside still visible, the double green with me under the sea. In college at home they kept the pounding Texas sun out, or in Boston the cold unimpeded by the useless windows. The winter of 1991–made fabulously cold by the Mount Pinatubo eruption–coated all of Texas in six inches of ice and a freeze as deep as any I experienced in my Ontario childhood. The power went out early and we hung spare blankets and every old curtain and drape my mother refused to part with, all stored in a bathroom cabinet. Brilliant but heatless sunlight was kept out as much as the cold, making the house a soft tomb. At night they made me think of how people must have struggled during the Little Ice Age winters, huddled around fires, every opening blocked to keep the cold out. We pinned the bottoms tightly to keep the cold from rolling out and down, and I could hear the silent crystal snap of the world’s freezing.
Seattle has nothing so dramatic, not outside anyway. There is only drizzle and coolness more than cold, the light slanted over the world’s edge. It’s not too fast here, but not static: there is just enough time for things to happen.
About a month ago I realized that blankets and towels over my windows was not what I wanted, and I could change it. The home improvement stores were expensive when I scoped them over the holidays. Online may not be too much better, but it seemed so, and gave the discipline of delayed gratification. You’re putting blinds up by yourself?was the incredulous response. I didn’t see what the problem was.
Screw in some clips, snap the blinds on: done in five minutes. Free of cords they slide against gravity with a muted shuffle. They do seem a little cheap, but I doubt they’re any cheaper-feeling than ones I could have spent twice as much on. They will all say Made in China.
I can see how women would feel the look sterile and unfinished, but there is an aesthetic to the clean line. The neatness says: a grownup lives here, come in, the fridge has nutritious food and the toilets are clean. The last two have always been true. The blinds say something closer to the first is trending that way.