January 29th, 2006
fireflies


Walking home from the video store I like to peek into peoples houses, (I confess to being a bit of a voyeur, which may not surprise you). I love seeing how other people are living, what they are doing, what their houses look like inside, what kind of artwork they have on their walls. It’s not a creepy spying thing, but more of a curiosty that spurs me. A few doors down a couple sits at a large dining room table under bright lighting, they look to be conversing. I wonder what they are talking about. A bit further in a student house the tv is on, it appears to be a football game which does not surprise me, they are always watching sports and barbequing in the side yard. Down from that is the house with the red walls. Artist’s live there. At least I assume they are artists of some kind because there are huge paintings everywhere, and they seem to love color. I contemplate trying to meet them at some point.
Sometimes I make up stories about the people that live in these houses. In one there lives an old woman who drinks coffee. She waved at us once and I wonder if she is lonely. Maybe her husband passed away recently and her children all live far away, coming to visit only at Christmas. She spends her time in the garden out back, pruning a rare breed of English tea rose. On the cool nights she remembers being a child of seven running outside in a nightgown trying to catch fireflies.
All of this is neither here nor there. Just the various, idiosyncratic ramblings of a curious mind.

Jan 29 2006
9:30 pm
an awfully serious girl writes:

Try to meet them. They may be looking in your artist windows, too.
I have spent my life being afraid to talk to strangers, and now I realize what strangers have to teach and tell me.

Jan 29 2006
9:37 pm
sunny writes:

Yes! I, too, know what it feels like to have to explain that kind of curiosity. I especially love Christmas-time, because it’s legitimate to cruise by more slowly and look into windows (to see the lit trees, of course ;-). I also enjoy sitting in restaurants and imagining what’s really going on in other people’s conversations or lack thereof.
When my children accuse me of trying to eavesdrop, I am genuinely surprised that *everyone* isn’t fascinated by the details of personal lives!
Thanks for sharing, Keri.
P.S. Where I come from, they call fireflies “lightning bugs”!

Jan 29 2006
10:09 pm
sarah writes:

i remember when i was younger skipping house to house selling chocolate bars and just rememeber the smells when the friendly stranger would open the door. every house has it’s smell. my favorite was the turkey dinner house and my least, the cigarette mixed with wet dog.
ps. you are such a charming soul

Jan 29 2006
10:27 pm
rebecca writes:

lovely images

Jan 30 2006
12:09 am
Alex writes:

I smiled as I read this. I do the exact same thing! In fact, being in the process of buying our very first home, I found myself last week driving to visit the house again. I stood across the street in the early evening darkness, and found myself taking sidewalk peeks, and feeling comforted observing my soon to be neighbors’ gardens and front porches- the little touches here and there that said these people are enough like me to relate to- plants, color, art. I enjoyed knowing that you do it too- though I suspect there are many of us out there!

Jan 30 2006
12:32 am
Rachael writes:

My husband and I enjoy going on walks around the neighbourhood, and over time we have crafted silly stories and personal histories for some of the homes and people we see. What is even more nutty is that we tend to refer to these tales in later conversations as if they are real

Jan 30 2006
5:17 am
John writes:

I once saw a painting by an artist I particularly like when glancing through a window. A few days later I went to an exhibtion at a local gallery and mentioned this sighting to the owner, as they had previously shown the artist.
The owner looked at me rather strangely, then asked “was it down xx street”. I replied yes, and she said “that’s my house”. I felt pretty embarrased, but she took it in good part and we then chated about the artist.

Jan 30 2006
5:44 am
liz smith writes:

what a relief!! i’m not the only one who loves looking in others windows and imagining their lives!! think there might be alot of us out there!!
thanks for sharing
liz xx

Jan 30 2006
9:02 am
kate writes:

. . . one of the things that I love most about being a feng shui practitioner is that I get to go into people’s homes and see how the things of their lives are arranged and managed . . . it’s as if they invite me into their soul’s expression on earth and I get to walk around, take in the stories, like living, breathing tv, like being transported into a movie, like being an instant bestest friend since childhood. It is amazing . . . Like Chauncey Gardner, I like to watch :)

Jan 30 2006
10:01 am
stacy writes:

I have enjoyed reading your ramblings. I too make up stories about what I believe people to be doing or thinking. I think that most of my stories resemble your thoughts of this elderly lady. Ever wonder why we never include real life issues in our make believe. Why none of our characters have house notes, utility bills, and a job they don’t like?

Jan 30 2006
10:12 am
Sharyn (Torm) writes:

oh.my! I’m LOL! I thought I was the only one that did this! I purposely take my walks at dusk because people have their lights on, but still haven’t pulled the shades!! hahaha! And I make up stories about everyone!!!
I love this. What a great entry…it’s so nice to know that I’m not alone, my husband may find a certain comfort in that. He worries, you know.

Jan 30 2006
10:24 am
Tongue in Cheek writes:

This reminds me of Jimmy and Grace in Hitchcok’s Rear View Window, without the murder of course! I especially liked the image you put of the Grandmother catching fireflies in her nightgown, sweet whismical and most of all enchanting! You have such grace in sending cupid like images to our hearts!

Jan 30 2006
10:59 am
Jodi writes:

You are so NOT alone…I do this all the time. I even make my husband slow down sometimes if I see something interesting in a window. What usually despressed me, though, is when we take a drive at night and every single house has a tv blaring. I love it when I see people sitting around a table talking, I always want to know what they are talking about.

Jan 30 2006
11:41 am
courtney sue writes:

I look in windows, too. It’s especially interesting during the holidays when people put their Christmas trees in the windows.

Jan 30 2006
12:12 pm
Laini writes:

I love looking in windows too! When we walk the dogs every morning we see a lot of the same people coming and going in the neighborhood, and my husband has invented names for them all; we’re almost afraid we’ll run into them one day and call them by their imaginary names! I also love to see the cats and dogs watching us out windows as we pass.
-Laini

Jan 30 2006
12:34 pm
keri Smith writes:

i have the same reaction to the t.v.’s blaring. when you see it in this way house after house it seems painfully obvious that there are so many people not connecting with other humans. I am not implying that we need to be more social necessarily, but is this what we really want to spend our lives doing?

Jan 30 2006
12:34 pm
keri Smith writes:

i have the same reaction to the t.v.’s blaring. when you see it in this way house after house it seems painfully obvious that there are so many people not connecting with other humans. I am not implying that we need to be more social necessarily, but is this what we really want to spend our lives doing?

Jan 30 2006
12:34 pm
keri Smith writes:

i have the same reaction to the t.v.’s blaring. when you see it in this way house after house it seems painfully obvious that there are so many people not connecting with other humans. I am not implying that we need to be more social necessarily, but is this what we really want to spend our lives doing?

Jan 30 2006
12:34 pm
keri Smith writes:

i have the same reaction to the t.v.’s blaring. when you see it in this way house after house it seems painfully obvious that there are so many people not connecting with other humans. I am not implying that we need to be more social necessarily, but is this what we really want to spend our lives doing?

Jan 30 2006
12:49 pm
Bjorn Lassi writes:

how do you know that people aren’t watching a documentary that will move them to take action in their communities? how do you know that those people watching television as you peep in on their evening haven’t just had a satisfying table conversation with their families moments before, and have decided to veg for a bit after a long day’s work? how is sitting in front of your computer blogging different?

Jan 30 2006
1:38 pm
Kerilyn writes:

I do that too! I like to look inside houses.. admittedly more affluent ones.. see if they’re having a cup of tea.. or enjoying a book.. I live near a Historic area.. these beautiful homes… and just last nite i was walking around.. smelling the gas lit entry way lights.. wondering what people are doing inside!!!

Jan 30 2006
1:55 pm
PJ writes:

Oh my..perhaps you have opened another can of worms!!! SO DO I!!! I kind of like the Kinkade thing…how the light peers from the window and esp. what is on people’s walls! I even look at how my light appears from the outside…

Jan 30 2006
2:47 pm
nadine writes:

One summer when I was in University I worked as a chamber maid at a big fancy hotel. To make the job less tedious I would dream up stories about the guests based on the clothes left lying on the chair, the cologne by the sink, the radio station they had chosen on the bedside alarm…

Jan 30 2006
3:22 pm
keri Smith writes:

Bjorn,
I don’t. I suppose I am making some assumptions here.
i knew this would get some backlash.
it is difficult when my husband who teaches grade school tells me, when he asks his students what their favourite thing to do is, the most common answer is “watch tv”.
I don’t think it is any secret that we live in a tv culture and that it is one of the popular pastimes.
my difficulty with it is that it is a passive medium.

Jan 30 2006
3:22 pm
keri Smith writes:

Bjorn,
I don’t. I suppose I am making some assumptions here.
i knew this would get some backlash.
it is difficult when my husband who teaches grade school tells me, when he asks his students what their favourite thing to do is, the most common answer is “watch tv”.
I don’t think it is any secret that we live in a tv culture and that it is one of the popular pastimes.
my difficulty with it is that it is a passive medium.

Jan 30 2006
3:22 pm
keri Smith writes:

Bjorn,
I don’t. I suppose I am making some assumptions here.
i knew this would get some backlash.
it is difficult when my husband who teaches grade school tells me, when he asks his students what their favourite thing to do is, the most common answer is “watch tv”.
I don’t think it is any secret that we live in a tv culture and that it is one of the popular pastimes.
my difficulty with it is that it is a passive medium.

Jan 30 2006
3:22 pm
keri Smith writes:

Bjorn,
I don’t. I suppose I am making some assumptions here.
i knew this would get some backlash.
it is difficult when my husband who teaches grade school tells me, when he asks his students what their favourite thing to do is, the most common answer is “watch tv”.
I don’t think it is any secret that we live in a tv culture and that it is one of the popular pastimes.
my difficulty with it is that it is a passive medium.

Jan 30 2006
5:03 pm
rama writes:

wow! i am amazed by how many people do this! I i do it too. the windows are so quiet and immaculate… like accidental works of art. until someone inside sees you looking. and you are arrested.
…juuust kidding.
i have been noticed a few times though and didn’t know what to do. the feeling changed abruptly. i should start carrying a sign: YOU HAVE A BEAUTIFUL WINDOW! (flip it over.) I AM NOT A CREEP!

Jan 30 2006
5:14 pm
herhimnbryn writes:

I remember doing this in the UK. We lived in a row of terraced houses and each window was a living snapshot. It’s a little more difficult out here in Oz in the bush, everyone’s drives are so long!
Great post, thanks.

Jan 30 2006
5:23 pm
rama redux writes:

p.s., regarding tv, did i ever send you the link to this ::: http://thedrama.org/featured29.php ::: i meant to but i may have forgotten. you should write them too!
the tv question threw me for a loop. “if you can ask anything,” i wondered, “why that?” it was interesting though.
come to think of it, reading everyone’s answers was sort of like the window watching. we get to see these people in their living room for a few minutes and imagine what that means to them.

Jan 30 2006
8:39 pm
patricia writes:

I’m all about the making up stories thing when I see other people. I’ve done that all my life, and I love it.
I must admit, that I don’t think one should judge too harshly people who watch TV. Not all TV is bad, just like not all books are that great, either. We own a TV, and we have a crapload of books. Does that make us bad people? I sure don’t think so. I have wonderful conversations every day with my husband. When I make up stories about people that I meet, I know for a fact that my stories are ultimately my own imagination. I can never truly know what is going on inside another person’s mind, not even my husband’s. That includes people who own and watch TV.
Just food for thought.

Jan 31 2006
7:21 am
Maureen writes:

I love looking in peoples windows and seeing how they live. I guess thats why “Reality Shows” are so popular on TV. We love to get an insight to others lives.

Jan 31 2006
9:00 am
kathryn s writes:

I often think up background stories for the strangers I see on the streets, etc. too!

Jan 31 2006
10:25 am
Kim writes:

hello dear curious keri, and thank you for your delightful ramblings. the opening passage so reminds me of a novel, that i think you might enjoy, it is “Hotel World” by Ali Smith.
cheers, peaches, and cream and the big ol’ sun to you!

Jan 31 2006
10:25 am
Sarah Pezdek-Smith writes:

I do this all the time too…i thought that I was crazy :)I do this especially when my husband and i are driving somewhere. It is so fun making up stories about the lives of the people who live there.

Jan 31 2006
10:42 am
genadfemale writes:

This urge to peer into people’s windows as you pass by even has a name:
Crytoscopophilia

Jan 31 2006
1:10 pm
bohemiangirl writes:

dearest keri…i bet that lovely old woman would love some fresh flowers or baked goods from you. if she only knew how much she has touched your heart. i can imagine you’ve thought of this already.
thank you for this lovely post. i am now inspired to take a walk and make up stories.
a fun thing to do for people with large imaginations!
you are a gem.

Jan 31 2006
1:57 pm
kelly writes:

In New York, you can’t really see the whole room because often, apartments are elevated above street level. I like looking at people’s ceilings and the tops of their walls. There’s something very cool and interesting about an embellished ceiling (which many old brownstones have) or an intricate chandelier. Paint colors often tell you a lot about people. My favorites are the rooms with red or green paint on the walls.

Jan 31 2006
6:30 pm
Jodi Lynn writes:

Thanks Keri, for this entry. I’ve enjoyed everyone’s posts, realizing we all do almost the same thing!
I used to love living on-campus in college, all the little dorm rooms lit up at night — and of course most people left their blinds up! heavenly!
(:

Jan 31 2006
9:34 pm
Swirly writes:

I love your ramblings. :)

Jan 31 2006
10:11 pm
Billie writes:

Hello, this is my first visit here and I do the very same thing! I guess I’m not the only one. Every time I drive down Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach, CA, I want to peek into every house, especially at night when you can see inside. Every house seems to have scenic windows with no curtains, as if they want you to look in. My daughter says to keep my eyes on the road, but I’m curious, very curious. I wish I could stop, but the traffic is hideous so I keep driving. I’m a curious soul, so I will poke around your blog and read more.

Feb 1 2006
2:19 pm
amanda writes:

i do the same thing. i LOVE looking in peoples windows

Feb 2 2006
1:34 pm
Michael writes:

Similar to Nadine, I once worked as a cashier at a large supermarket and, to make this monotonous job a little spicier, I would often imagine what people were doing and cooking with everything they bought. Having a party? A big Sunday dinner? Eating alone?
How wonderful that we have imagination to make the dullest of situations bearable.

Feb 2 2006
9:49 pm
Nicole writes:

When I was a kid one of my favorite books was Harriet the Spy. I have always been too scared that I would be caught peeking, but Harriet would sneak around and kept a notebook on what she saw. She justified it by saying it was research for books she would someday write.
You never know where your next inspiration will come from.

Feb 4 2006
10:07 pm
tracy writes:

You’re Harriet The Spy! Go, Girl.
I love your visual journal pages that you do every AM. Inspired and inspiring.


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