When I first moved into my house many years ago, the curtains the previous owners left up in the extra bedroom were so pathetically worn, they’d been taped to the curtain rod. I replaced them with some nice, simple curtains that served me well for years until the plastic tabs broke off and the curtains drooped in the center. Droopy drapes were not a good look, so I picked up replacement tabs and pulled down the curtains to fix the rod. While the curtains were down, I decided to wash the accumulated dust of years off them.
Big mistake. The curtains tore themselves apart in the washer. And guess what? Modern style has moved away from pinch-pleat, so I couldn’t find direct replacements. I had to replace the entire curtain rod as well. The new curtains look nice now, but more work than I expected.
The whole experience got me thinking about the nature of curtains. Curtains cover up windows, right? Without curtains and window glass, we’d have gaping holes in our walls. So curtains are for both decoration and privacy. Curtains keep our neighbors from seeing inside, and on the flip-side, they keep us from seeing outside. Sometimes, that’s more important.
My writing desk is positioned so I’m facing the window within touching distance of the curtain. Yet sometimes when I sit at my desk in the morning to eat breakfast and begin writing, I make no move to open the curtain. Might be cloudy outside, might be sunny, might be raining or snowing or hailing, yet I’m not ready to see. A thin piece of cloth like a curtain is by no means a physical barrier. It’s a psychological barrier. By blocking sight, the world reduces to the confines of the walls. Sometimes I crave the coziness of my room. Maybe it’s a holdover from childhood and the sense of safety offered by blankets against the monsters under the bed. Adult fears aren’t as easily dispelled. Sometimes the world is too big, so keeping things small for a time helps me regain my perspective so I can expand and face what’s beyond.
Sometimes I sit at my desk sipping my coffee and listen to the sounds from outside. The rustling of trees, the neighbor kids, traffic noise, tools in the distance, birdsong… I listen and imagine what might be out there considering that the only barrier between my imaginings and knowledge is this thin piece of cloth blocking my sight.
Then I open the curtains.