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An open window

One of spring’s many joys is the renewed ability to open windows. All winter long, I’ve had my windows shut and the drapes drawn in an effort to keep warm air in and the cold out. It’s a prudent practice, but so many other things remained locked outside with the frost. The smell of fresh air. The brightness of the sun. The sounds of nature. I didn’t really notice how much I missed them until spring invited me to open my windows again.

Sunshine boldly came in first. When the open drapes were no longer necessary to help insulate window panes, I pushed them aside. Pools of warm light puddled on the floor, splashed against the walls, and danced on the ceiling. I was startled to discover I’d become accustomed to dimly lit rooms. When the sun came in, the chilly gloom of winter released its grip. Everything seemed brighter.

A breeze followed the sun, a warm breath of new life replacing the stale, dry indoor air that had been recirculating for months. It brought a scent of budding flowers, the aroma of fresh earth, and a hint of recent rain.

When I sat quietly and listened as the sounds of spring came through the screens, I realized how isolated I’d become over the course of the winter. Interior house noises feature only the self-absorbed processes of human habitation. The hum of a refrigerator, the click of a thermostat, the buzz of a dryer. Closed windows mute the larger world outside. In this artificial silence, I’d cut myself off from things beyond my walls.

Nature waited patiently. The soundscape of renewed energy greeted me when I finally opened the windows.

Of birdsong there was an abundance. Some voices, I recognized at once. A robin. A cardinal. The wild jungle-like call of a pileated woodpecker. But many others I couldn’t immediately identify. Every year, I have to repeat the process of learning them anew. Still, I enjoyed listening to see how many different types of calls I could distinguish, even if I didn’t yet know who was calling to whom.

And there were frogs. The spring peepers gathered into a choir, their individual whistles blending and overlapping. Not to be outdone, upland chorus frogs added their own note, a call that sounds something like running your thumbnail over the teeth of a comb. I didn’t see these diminutive heralds of spring, but the songs drifting in through my window told me they were there.

I did see and hear the squirrels. Their boisterous rustling through leftover fall leaves created an impression of something much larger. For a moment, I wondered if prehistoric monsters still lurked in the wild, foraging at the edge of my yard. When I got up to check, I discovered that the ruckus originated from two squirrels involved in a merry chase.

My human neighbors are also more easily heard and seen with the windows open. Sounds drift on the air. A lawnmower. A leaf blower. A laugh. They shout, “Hey!” when they pass by. I know the people have been there all along, but during the season of my winter isolation, I seem to have forgotten.

Still, sometimes I have to shut the windows even in spring. Several years ago, I learned the hard way that it can be foolish to leave them open all night. Once when I did, I awoke to find the contents of my house coated with pollen. Spring cleaning that year was a chore to remember. I’ve also learned how quickly storms can pop up around here. If I leave the house and forget to shut the windows, it will rain. Apparently, there’s a strong connection between my windows and the weather; the more I leave open, the harder it will rain.

The season of open windows is short-lived. Soon, summer days may pressure me to pull the drapes again in an effort to help keep Virginia’s afternoon sun out and a vestige of coolness within. But until then, you can find me beside an open window getting reconnected to the world on the other side.

KAREN BELLENIR has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, “Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville,” features a compilation of her columns. It is available from PierPress.com. You can contact Karen at kbellenir@PierPress.com.