We have a really great view from our living room window.
Maybe it’s not quite as breathtaking as some, but I’ve never had a great view before. Every building I’ve lived in was directly across from another, equally large building. It’s hard to get excited about looking out of the window when it feels like you’re staring at what could be the rear of your own house.
The library’s just below, but off to the left you can see the Firth of Tay stretching out. I’ve never been able to see a large body of water from my window either, despite living most of my life in coastal towns. At night, you can see the little lights of Newport-on-Tay and Wormit on the other side, all the way down to Newburgh. All these settlements dotted along the coast. I can almost imagine I’m in the age of feudalism.
Once or twice, the whole firth has been smothered in fog as it moves out of Dundee on its way south. The sky is a constant surprise, shifting from bright blue to deep orange. The moon arcs its way across the heavens, and if the weather is clear, it will light up the water, turning it from dark ink to pale milk while solitary clouds are brought into sharp relief among the stars.
It’s difficult, however, for you to truly appreciate the view from our flat. I could describe it at length, racking my brain for whatever clumsy similes are rattling around in there. That’s just a description, though, and what you imagine will necessarily be quite unlike the reality.
I could take a picture, but I lack appropriate equipment, and I’m no photographer anyway. Besides, photographs never really capture what something looks like to the human eye: they capture what the photographer wants to communicate, and the spectre of Photoshop looms over all.
I could paint it, but even if I managed to replicate even a tenth of its quiet, shifting beauty, you’re more likely to say “hey, that’s a great picture, I didn’t know you could paint, you could sell that” than “it’s almost like I’m there.”
That’s really the problem, isn’t it? I don’t want to communicate my view to you; I want you to see it, the way I do when I’m alone at night. I want you to be here with me, to sit on the balcony and watch the sky above us turn. I want you to feel the chill, and when the road noise stops for a brief moment, to feel like you’re miles away from the city. I don’t want to give you some crude facsimile so that you might try to get a sense of it. I want you to sense it.
That, unfortunately, is a metaphysical impossibility, but I think one of the beautiful things about humanity is that people are capable of trusting that you are being honest in your passion.