room with a view
glowing temple - tonight a group of men were there loudly chanting "Prosper! Prosper!". Well, at least they acknowledge that their god is wealth. photo by J
It's been almost 4 months since I've become a high-rise flat dweller, our flat perhaps one seventh the size of my parents' Phua Chu Kang-inspired house. Our flat has a total of 4 window panels (excluding 2 cut-outs in the bathroom), 2 face the north, and 2 face the south.
The former gives me an immediate view of a school and Chiam's Potong Pasir sliver in Toa Payoh - and beyond, the concrete of more housing estates in Bishan, then Ang Mo Kio... The latter affords a more varied view. There is the neighbouring Taoist temple (always a neon-spectre of activity), more flats like ours, the city in the distance, and beyond - a dark grey line of indecipherable concrete or sea or refineries or pollutant...
Night (Dusk) Day from the windows.photos by J
I remember some time ago WW told me about her visit to emily dickinson's house (now the Emily Dickinson museum). The poet lived there most of her life (1830-86), and wrote about 1800 poems, most of which were almost all undiscovered and unpublished till after her death. In particular WW told me (if I recall correctly) how she felt strangely moved by the window of the house where Dickinson must have sat most of her time, viewing the world outside.
I guess most of us would be quick to label her some recluse. How could anyone stand it? Being in one place all of their lives?
our iron-grilled, "upgraded" lift lobby.
But even if hers was really a life lived from behind a window, it was not limitative in any way. After all, it provided a view to one of the most lively intellectual periods of America's history, the American enlightenment, a literary "golden age" - and, of course, the political upheavals of a civil war. More importantly, it provided a view for words that seem to defy the framing of their sentences, take apart and remake the line to fit their own relations and rhythms. Space is as quick and as expansive as one mind behind one window of one house in one town providing a view all the way to eternity - and back, just to "tell it you" .
The only news I know
Is bulletins all day
The only shows I see,
Tomorrow and Today,
The only One I meet
Is God, -the only street,
Existance; this traversed
If other news there be,
Or admirabler show -
I'll tell it you.
Singaporeans' favourite view - the shop window! photo by J
Maybe it's no longer possible, with our planes and satellites and fibreoptics and flickr, to sit by one window and find through its view a space so large it can contain a whole life and eternity. Maybe.
After 4 months, perhaps the novelty of my 4 windows has not yet worn off. But today the confines of this island (about to be swept into a shopping frenzy starting today with the Great Singapore Sale) are starting to get on me. Today, almost 7 months after Taipei, I am thinking of Shanghai and Beijing...