The seasons’ slow cycling brings changes in the weather and the angle of the sun, along with shifts in the routines of daily life. On this high ridge in central Colorado, as in many other parts of the northern hemisphere, late fall brings the chance of snow (along with shoveling) and fires in the fireplace (along with hauling firewood). Since we don’t have large stands of deciduous trees delivering their autumnal yield of fallen leaves, there’s not much raking to be done, making fall more of a spectator sport: we watch the shifting hues of the grasses as they redden or turn tawny or bronze on the hillsides. Groves of aspen flare yellow from their nooks in north-facing drainages, and the dark green puddles of scrub oak on the hillsides turn russet and then quickly fade to brown.
But there are changes inside, too, and not just the earlier switching on of lights or the aforementioned fires in the fireplace. Since we built our house to take advantage of southern exposures for passive solar gain, there are seasonal patterns to operating the cellular blinds on the windows. This time of year, I’m diligent about making a round in the evening to close them all. The next morning, the process is reversed, albeit in a more fragmented fashion, since I open them as the sun hits the respective walls: eastern windows first, southern windows a bit later, west-facing last. On days that are cloudy or snowy, I leave the blinds closed save for those on a couple of windows where I’m likely to pause and look out as I’m passing by.
In summer, the pattern reverses, more or less. Blinds on the west and south get closed during the day to keep the sun from blaring in and overheating the house. At night, they’re all reeled fully up so we can throw open the windows and usher in the cool air of mountain nights.
Winter visitors sometimes snicker when I start the evening round of closing. “What, are you afraid the neighbors will see in?” they ask, giggling. The joke is that the nearest house with a line of sight to any of our windows is more than a mile away.
For me, privacy doesn’t really enter into the equation. In my mind, the window blinds are part of the climate control system for the house. They’re a tool in keeping it warmer in winter and cooler in summer. The daily rounds of raising and lowering are tiny steps toward improved energy efficiency.
That’s the practical aspect. There’s a philosophical component of this chore, too. We tend to draw a clear line between indoors and out, and we call those lines walls. Windows introduce a degree of fuzziness, providing apertures that usher something of the outdoors in (and, on the note of privacy, can also provide a peep show of the events going on inside). Regardless of what’s on my schedule for the day, the small ritual of opening and closing the blinds draws my attention outside for a few minutes a few times a day. I might be preoccupied with a work project or scurrying to get ready to run errands in town, but those interludes of tugging on or releasing the cords on the blinds draw my focus, if only briefly, away from my to-do list and the interior chatter that my brain is inclined toward. I enjoy the sense that I’m responding to the conditions of my environment, appreciate this element of interaction between the house and its setting. Even when commitments or an inclination to hunker down keep me indoors, I’m glad for the excuse to peek outside and be reminded of where, exactly, I live.