Feng Shui, to believe or not to believe, Iris. It makes me really wonder. Feng shui: it goes back to the alignment of the stars, and tells us how water and fire do not go together. Many of us take a ruler and never step out of margins. The Asian culture is one that looks at stars and horoscopes to determine what we should be doing, or what colours we should be wearing, and numbers we should be betting on, or whether we should be putting a fishbowl next to the window or not.
I grew up in a home which was, for a great part of my life, something that many children would not have envied. My parents were always fighting. My father was a businessman and my mother worked as a kindergarten teacher. My father was good at what he did but his biggest weakness was trusting people with his money. Or was it that the house we lived in was faulted because we didn’t follow the Feng Shui when the house was built? Our home was in the middle of the street, a Feng Shui "no-no", and we got frowned at for our bad luck! Coincidence or not?
We lived in a beautiful tropical home with huge windows too, and looking back, apart from the tumultuous past, there were happy days spent with my siblings, and my parents taught us the big lessons at an early age in life which as an adult, a wife, and a parent, I now understand.
But I always go back to the Feng Shui in our first home, and wonder if it might have been a different childhood if we had followed the rules. My parents now live in a different home, signed, sealed and approved by the Chinese Feng Shui architect and authorities, and they are living happily ever after, together, in love again, that is! Was it Feng Shui or was it just about two individuals just being parents, yes, humans, who didn’t know any better?
The influence of beliefs (superstitious or religious), intermingled with geography, history, sociology, and let’s not forget usefulness and function that we find peculiarities and details of a home. The massive windows, as every foreigner would notice, and every Dutch host would not fail to mention, is the trademark of a Dutch home.
On a personal note, I enjoy a stroll in a neighbourhood to see that Johan has put up a new bright yellow painting from his recent trip to Malawi against his off-white walls, or Wilma’s two perfectly spaced grey designer pots on one side of her window sill with throw pillows and long sofa in the same hue as the pots, and magazines lined nonchalantly on the reading table, and in another home, at the far end of the room there is a table with a toddler chair, a high chair, and four grown-up chairs around a dining table with Ikea plastic glasses and plates, hagelslag, a carton of milk, and orange juice, two coffee mugs, an open family agenda and a newspaper. The stories that can play in our minds whilst we watch scenes through a Dutch window, and for a moment we live a slice of what it is to live that life.
The Dutch I know, and I hate to generalise, are the most honest people I know. You will hear the truth, whether said bluntly and by unguarded tongue, or in dry, sarcastic humour. And this suits their nature of keeping the curtains drawn back in a home with large living room windows.
If anybody cared to ask if I would have changed the size of my living room windows, the huge ones, as a Dutchified foreigner living in Eindhoven, my answer would be no. I especially love that detail of a Dutch home.
In my childhood, like I just said, the windows were always open. You could feel the sweeping winds from west to east, letting the sunshine in, watching the rain fall, watching people walking past. It may not have been the best Fung Shui as told to us, but it made me happy to get that close to the world outside, especially as a child, protected behind walls and windows.
As a grown-up, and living in a completely different climate now, I am amused by what I see when walking around and getting a glimpse of the different lives as told through the window. I have come to enjoy watching people from my own window and can identify several kinds of spectators: There are the stealthy spectators who, from the corner of their eye, look into your window, and upon realising that you’ve spotted them, turn away and pretend they weren’t looking. Then there are the obvious observers – that’s me -, who turn their head and half-admiringly look into homes. I am a curious person, and I am (relatively) new here, and want to know more about people, and make up stories and conversations in my mind with voices of people I’ve never exchanged a word with.
And, of course, there are the ones that just walk past and think it’s none of their business to look. Then, the last ones are not spectators.
People are curious. People want to be part of a story without having to step into somebody’s home, but just by concluding from the display of what’s inside the homes, and the manner it is laid out and done.
Windows, from the inside looking out, are a way to enjoy the four seasons for the colour they bring, the sunshine, the moon light, the rain, the snow, the trees with leaves in the summer, and bare in the winter. I love to watch the coming and going, and the coming again. From the outside looking in, just knowing there are milestones being celebrated, no matter how simple or how great, there are stories being told over a stamppot dinner, dramas being unravelled, a dog watching you walk past, her hopeful eyes waiting for her master’s return.
Windows are a celebration of life for the Dutch, for what they enjoy, suggesting contentment for lives they live, suggesting pride in what they do. We can only read so much into the lives of people, and sometimes that’s all we want to know.