Most houses and apartments in France have shutters. Working shutters on each window that are not just there for decorative purposes but actually open and close. The shutters are typically opened in the morning, opening the house, the room, the interior to the world – may be half closed “à l’espagnolette” in the afternoons (for perhaps a nap, or to avoid direct sunlight) and are shut in the evenings making the inside once again mysterious, hidden and secretive.
There are several different kinds of shutters that exist – some that roll up and down electrically with a switch or manually by turning a lever; there are the ones that you push open to either side of the window, or ones that fold up nicely and tuck themselves away on the window sill. There are some made of metal, some of wood, some in PVC. There are some shutters in which you need to open your window to access, while others can be accessed from the inside without having to open the window…
Shutters provide protection – from the light, from the cold, from the heat, they make us warm, keep our interiors private by concealing us, they create shadows, they isolate us, they provide a sense of security. They roll, they fold, the rattle in the wind
In our house, we have shutters on every window and door except the back door. It has been almost a month that we have been in our new home and every morning we open the shutters, and every evening we close them. We have the kind of shutters that roll up and down. They are made of wood and are manipulate by turning a lever from the inside, thus we need not open our windows to open/shut the shutters.
I feel like there is a real psychology behind the shutters – in the act of opening and closing them. And I wonder how much can be said about a person or family based on what time their shutters open/close. You do ‘let people in’ in a way when you open them up. Or keep people out when they are shut. We all know that in France, we French have no hesitation in watching you, peeping at you, or blatantly staring at you. It is part of our culture, our genetic make up. It is an art, a hobby, a honed skill. We are curious, we want to see, we will most definitely judge you. We are not discreet, we have no remorse, we show no shame. Rather we make it quite obvious we are staring, at our greatest ease to watch, look you up and down. Is this perhaps the reason we have shutters in France? To shut the other out? (I know people watching is the reason café terraces exist…)
Winter days in France are particularly short. The sun begins to rise around 8:20 AM and it is dark around 5:20PM. My daily dilemma is if I should wait until the sun has come out, or that the darkness is no longer (because that would mean that on cloudy days I could wait forever for the sun to come out!) before opening the shutters? Or should I open them before? But then I feel vulnerable to all who can see in, because when there is a light on inside, and it is dark outside, we see so much better through the window inside the home, even with curtains. The same applies in the evenings. Should I close the shutters at dusk or wait till dark, even though I may have to turn a light on, thus being once again vulnerable to the world to watch?
On my good days, when I am up and about early and the boys are still sleeping and I can get things done and get myself ready, I have the biggest thrill in opening the shutters around 7AM when it is still dark out, but I am ready for them to be open, I am ready for my day, I am showered, I have breakfasted, picked up the kitchen, made my bed, I don’t care if people peek inside!
On other days when the boys wake up early like me and it takes me longer to get ready and things tidied up, I leave the shutters closed and hide behind them till 8:30AM when the day has officially arrived and I don’t need to turn on any lights.
I wonder if the neighbors look to see, watch and tally up the daily openings of my shutters and what they think to themselves. Not that I care, as I am guilty of watching the neighbors too. Some leave early when it is still dark and don’t even open their shutters for the day. Some leave them closed all the time, even when they are home. Some open some of the shutters to some of the windows early and later in the day open the rest of them. Some leave them open all the time. And some close them half way in the afternoons, as I do in the boys’ room for their nap-times…
Do the way shutters are opened/closed reflect ones personality, reflecting a more introverted or extroverted individual? Is a person’s day better when he opens his shutters early or vice-versa? Is one typically more friendly and outgoing if their shutters are often open, or bitter and a recluse if the shutters remain closed..? Is there competition between neighbors – “Ha! got ’em before you today, I win!”
All these pictures of shutters are from windows of houses on our street. I am sure the neighbors were peeping out from behind the shutters, hiding behind the curtains watching me and asking themselves why I was talking photos of their windows…?
Updated by XandraExpressions on February 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm