In Insomniac City, Bill Hayes describes taking solace in the trees outside his window after his beloved partner Oliver Sacks passed away. Watching “Tree TV” through the seasons proved to both illuminating and comforting, and just kind of focus he could manage:
The summer was a rainy one, perfect for watching Tree TV, as I came to call it. Once, during a ferocious thunderstorm I’d just managed to escape, I found the boughs being tossed about like rag dolls. The branches thrashed violently — whipping back and forth, slamming against the windows with a thud, then sliding down slowly before being lifted aloft again. I was riveted. The trees, clearly overmatched by the combination of winds, rain and lightening, were not fighting the story but yielding to it.
This is just how they were built, how the species had evolved to survive.
We’ve found ourself mesmerized, calmed and heartened by the “TVs” from the various places we’ve landed in our life, and ones we’ve seen others watch. We especially love the unique TV that emerged from the lockdown on WindowSwap. Strangers shared their video views from their windows.
The videos make us feel a kinship with others around the world. The everyday in each place —in Zaltbommel, The Netherlands; Glascow, Scotland; Goa, India; Chendou, China….— is at once familiar and exotic. Reality can be curiously comforting.
Photographer Alison Harris spent years photographing the sky from her window in Italy. Her simple, contemplative practice became an exhibition called “A Window in the Sky”, a study of sky and clouds. (We wrote about it here.)
Harris nailed the essence of alt-TVs:
Standing at the window is a way of being still and attentive to what is at hand.
A few years ago we corresponded with beekeeper named Leonid Sharashkin who created a remarkable Bee TV after bees came to inhabit a plywood box he lashed to a tree to entice them into making a hive.
I just put a glass wall on the box and brought them inside. The bees come and go through this black pipe and the passage on the left – and through the window.
…We can watch them 24/7. I call it “Bee TV” and this is the only channel we have at home. When you don’t watch your Bee TV, cover it with a curtain that does not let light through, for privacy (bees’ and yours).
…The “TV” was completely empty two months ago. They’ve been building combs and filling them with pollen and honey.
…Eventually when the bees have no more room for build new comb, the entire colony will take off and abandon the box, leaving you with a TV full of comb honey, but not a single bee!
(Sharashkin was kind enough to give me detailed instructions for creating my own hive or Bee TV —though I haven’t yet attempted it. He translated “Keeping Bees With a Smile” from Russian, a book about the gentle beekeeping that mimics the way bees live in nature. You can purchase it here. )
If we think of reality as TV, would that make it easier to observe its quiet and amazing goings-on?
Top photo: sunset TV @kellybehunstudio