It is Spring, the day is warm, and there are ladders leaning against houses in my neighbourhood. Some are long, doubled extension ladders, and some are the everyday common stepladder found in the suburban vastness at most Canadian Tire stores. Each time I see a ladder next to a window, I’m reminded of the year that my daughter was very young, and glancing over his shoulder to see her braided ponytails, my husband was launched sideways to the ground by the buckling of a step ladder leg. He was cleaning the windows between two houses and our neighbour called out to get him to look. Truth be told, he was standing on the step part, right at the top, where the words, do not stand here, are engraved in the aluminum. But, fortunately, there was soft grass below which absorbed the five foot free fall of a perpendicular human frame and the commensurate expulsion of air. Though we laugh at this memory of window cleaning, he still feels the permanent shift in his back, and I worry that he never quite regained his balance – he approaches ladders with a new kind of hesitation.
We walk on this particular sunny Spring day to move out of doors and to look out at windows to see new growth in the neighbourhood. It is warm enough for window washing and this activity has brought out many with buckets and suds. I see a small child who blows bubbles across the brownish green grass, then stand to see two round and damp mud stains on his pants. Glancing up at his father, he looks for a solution finding none, so he bends over his chubby belly and blows on his knees hoping to move the stain as he did the bubbles. I imagine his father employing this learning and blowing on the windows as his sponge moves from bucket to window dripping. My reverie is broken by the whirring of a pressure washer and the clunk of the engine in the machine.
Today, I am standing in my classroom lit with brilliant sunshine, liquid gold light streaming in, and we (half of my grade 12 class and me) are masked up and looking out to the street and houses below. We see neighbours on lawns using rakes, dogs on the ends of leashes urging their walkers forward with outstretched arms, and people moving in and out of doors. I say to them, “This window is expansive but the view is limited at the same time; it is framed and faces a particular direction. What limited information can we know through this window? What or who is missing?” The students look and we begin the discussion about this metaphor of windows as a way of seeing the world. I remind them that television and our computer screens are windows on the world, limited versions of places we have never been, people we have never met.
We are looking back at the course now, our last few days together. I hope they will stay curious and full of doubt in their own understanding of the world, hoping always in that way of “radical hope” for all of us.