Jane Urquart’s poetic sensibility is evident early in her novel, Sanctuary Line, when the narrator observes her love of captured light:
(T)his house is filled with reflections. Images of the great lake, therefore, swing into sight where you least expect them. North windows that face south windows reproduce and scramble marine views, mirrors refract lake light, and now and then poplars from the lakeside flicker on the old painted landscapes under glass and hanging on the parlour wall. Glass doors open to rooms where shutters are flung wide to a view of water. The stone walls that once surrounded my aunt’s rose garden are mirrored in the round looking-glass over her dressing table. At certain times of day, if you pull open one of the glass doors leading from her room to the patio, the view of these garden walls will be overlaid by a series of waves chasing one another towards an unseen shore. In August the monarchs rise against blue lake water on the glass of a storm door, and surf often feathers the face of the wall clock.
Like Urquart, I too am drawn to reflected light. You know that I have adored leaded windows forever; like a dragonfly’s faceted eyes, they render a multiplicity of reflections, almost iterated, just irregular enough to be interesting. Add stained glass to this old-fashioned ballet of light, and my heart starts to pound. The window in this old watercolour which now belongs to my niece, Anne, is a favourite --one of a bank of four in our living room.
Thirty-five years ago, when we moved in (to the basement, because everything needed fixing), this long living room was even darker than it is now. It did seem odd that only one end was tasked with providing all of the light but a casual walk around outside showed fireplace windows. I knew we had a fireplace, but flanking Craftsman windows? Turned out that the last and worst of the thirty years of renters had covered them with fake paneling. Jon set to work, tearing out the old casements and rebuilding them, and lo there was light.
Just not enough. We added a huge mirror over the fireplace to capture the light from bright end of the room. Still more light needed! I placed shining pewter and silver objects where I could, as part of my resistance campaign against curtains. It would have broken my heart to have put curtains on the beautiful old bank of 12-over-1 leaded windows, but there was also the issue of privacy so...
It took a year but we finally found a set of four antique leaded windows. Weeks later, after decades of grime had been removed, they proved to be a perfect solution. That spring I bought blue hyacinths to set on the stone ledge and we feasted off those colours for several weeks. That is probably when my iPhoto “Event” of window shots began. There are 87 digitals of (and through) windows from coast to coast which patiently wait for me to get working on the series which exists so far only in my head and in this one painting. "I should clearly reflect on that," she said.