I walked in on Jenny and Virtute engaged in a long conversation about Edward Hopper’s painting “Sun in an Empty Room”. They were discussing the ways in which John K. Samson’s lyrics to the Weakerthans’ song of the same name captures a very important and intimate reference to the disjunctures of home and belonging in Hopper’s work. Of particular interest to them was the concluding lyrics where Samson points to the ways in which even refractions of light can seem unfamiliar once you have begun the act of moving out.
Jenny was very adamant that the song and the painting revolved around our perceptions of the familiar. “What does it mean to know home? Can we ever know home? Is home not something so fragile that a small change in the angle of light across a room can create a feeling of unbelonging?” Virtute tended to agree, and quoted a line from the song:
“Take eight minutes and divide (sun in an empty room)
By ninety million lonely miles (sun in an empty room)
Watch the shadow cross the floor (sun in an empty room)
We don’t live here anymore (sun in an empty room)”
“For me, this is an important indication of how a process that takes place across time-space can have a significant effect on our relationship to home”, he explained. I wondered about this myself and as I snuck away from my eavesdropping on their conversation, I passed by the bathroom where Gumption was engaged in her most recent ritual of staring at the shower curtain. I asked her what she was doing. She responded, “I like the light on the curtain.” Feeling that the topic was relevant I asked what about it was interesting. Her response kinda put the whole discussion in context: “Sometimes you can’t explain things that you like, sometimes you just take the time to observe it. To know it.”
Gumption definitely doesn’t get enough credit in this house. Sometimes big questions have simple answers and sometimes we just refuse to answer these questions altogether. Sometimes it’s just sun in an empty room.