Tech Note:
The Pleasures of Confident Reliance
17 May 2019

¶ For more than thirty years, I lived in apartments whose kitchens had no windows — no natural light. Then, four and a half years ago, we moved down here, where there is a window in the kitchen, and it is not a small window like the ones in the bathrooms but full-sized, like the one in the dining ell. It took me most of that time, though, to become aware of one of the great pleasures of living here, which is being able to do simple things in the kitchen when I got up, on all but the most overcast days, without turning on the overhead light. I used to turn on the light without thinking about it, but then, somehow, I stopped, and had the opposite sensation of being surprised by the darkness of the the late afternoons.

Nowadays, I am very aware, mornings in the kitchen, of standing in natural light, making tea or pouring a bowl of cereal. This daylight is also overhead, but it falls from the end of the room where the window is, and of course its spectrum is nothing like that of the fluorescent affixed to the ceiling. While not exactly indirect — the building next door on 87th Street is no taller than our apartment, and there is plenty of sky to see if you stand at the window; sunlight itself makes a brief direct appearance earlier in the morning than I am usually up and about — the light is soft and diffuse, like that of a northern exposure. It reminds me — well, not me so much as my senses — of the light that illuminates most of Vermeer’s rooms.

Unlike Vermeer, and the women he painted, however, I can enjoy this light without being obliged to rely on it. And that, I think, is the wellspring of pleasure here. It does not make the daylight any nicer, but it clears away the crowd of worries that surges back every time there is a power outage (thankfully rare) or (more common in this building) a temporary water shutdown. I find those returns to nature to be horribly unwelcome. 

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