The View From My Window | Nickolas Butler
No matter where you live, coronavirus has altered daily life. We’ve asked Faber authors to share a snapshot of their lives in lockdown.
TWO WINDOWS AND A VISTA OF WISCONSIN
My family and I live on sixteen acres about ten miles south of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Our property is a bite-sized former chunk of a neighboring farm and, as such, the acreage is a mixture of landscapes: pine forest, recovering oak savannah and open grassy field. It isn’t a half bad place to be quarantined. And, for the past two months or so, we really haven’t left its confines, with the exception of grocery shopping and post-office runs.
When my wife pulls open our bedroom drapes in the morning, I look out south-facing windows to a tall ridge. Sometimes, my neighbor’s herd of buffalo (numbering about thirty-five creatures in total) is roaming out there. This time of year, everything is exploding in color, the world going from muted browns to vibrant new greens. The aspen trees near our house are sprouting forth trembling leaves and the meadow grasses seem to leap an inch each day. It’s a helluva view. About two months ago I woke up, stood near the windows and saw a pack of coyotes traversing the ridge. Other days it’s Sandhill cranes, bald eagles or white-tailed deer.
At the beginning of each day, I stumble downstairs to the coffee maker. This wide window is one of my favorite views in the house: mostly a white pine where I’ve stationed four bird feeders. I pour myself a cup of coffee and normally just stand there at our butcher-block counters (covered in kid-related debris: combs and brushes, toast crumbs, books, etc.), waking up. Some years, a bear or overzealous deer knocks the bird feeders down, but this year, the feeders have gone undisturbed. The birdlife on our property has become something of a family conversation starter. This morning, for example, my wife reported seeing an oriole at the feeders. Yesterday, a groundhog was out there foraging for fallen seeds. Other days: wild turkeys, a roguish pheasant, blue jays, goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches . . . When faced with a news cycle infatuated by Trump’s every dumbass, hare-brained, angry, selfish soliloquy or talking about wild birds . . . Well, give me the birds any time.
When we built this house, six years ago, windows were a priority. At this latitude, natural light is a precious commodity, and we wanted to live in a bright space. But we never imagined being quarantined here. Nowadays, I remember the tiny spaces I rented back in college: the shitty little room in a sad defunct hotel with one sad window and no kitchen, or the room in a derelict house occupied by four filthy twenty-something men and a colony of bats. Sweet lord, I’m happy to have this place now.
In a few days, we’re having a Regina wood-burning cook stove installed. I can hardly wait. I don’t know how long this quarantine will last, but if it’s still in effect come this autumn, I want to be enjoying my time in this house before a roaring wood fire, glass of wine in hand.
Stay safe and healthy out there, and happy reading.
Nickolas Butler is the author of Little Faith.