Windows on the World, The New York Times Op-Ed Page, June 5, 2011
“By some spiral of fate and capitulation, instead of a street in the East Village or a shabby lane in London, I stare out at a suburban patio, a generous and quiet garden in Edmonton, Alberta.
Since buying this house from an "Ozzie and Harriet"-like couple three summers ago, we've pretty much given the yard back to the squirrels and the magpies. People appear only as tops of heads walking down the alley, a zoetrope's glints through the fence. Because I haven't figured it out properly, the sprinkler comes on at odd hours, a sudden shower of inspiration or damping of pretension.
From inside, the garden looks like a reward: the drink on the terrace that is much more delicious in anticipation. But I turn away from the window. My desk faces a wall covered with images, notes, timelines, vaudeville photographs and playbills; my keyboard sits in a small black space surrounded by piles of books and paper - the brain disgorged and arrayed. It's a world frantic with life, all that paper funneling gradually into the computer screen.
When my eyes blear and I cannot focus any longer, the window is a way for my mind to blink, to clear my vision.
In wintertime I look out at the nothing that is not there; in summer, at an imaginary peaceful life. Early in the morning, I could drink coffee there, reading pages or doing some writerly thing with a fountain pen. But in reality, pernicious mosquitoes make it impossible to sit and work outside. It is a vision of the original Garden, and just as unobtainable.
I go to my desk and work. Like the street in the East Village, the garden goes on without me.”