Behind the glass we’re looking through is a winter day so dark that we can barely see into the wheelhouse of the tug W. A. Rooth. The steersman is apparent with effort, however. We can make him out as he navigates his craft through its dusk or dawn, sucking a cigar as he concentrates on the passage. Through billowing smoke and steam, he is bringing the ship J. T. Hutchinson up through a lock toward the glass.
According to a record in the Library of Congress, the man in the windowed cabin passed under the light of this day in about 1903. Some time after that instant entered the record, the record’s glass backing was cracked from top to bottom. The dark and the smoke still remain on their side of the glass, however. On either side of the crack are reassuring traces of repair, and we who see past the mend see from a vantage securely reserved, short term, for sight and life. But of course what we see is coming toward us through a glass fully permeable to dark.
Source: “[Steamer] J. T. Hutchinson leaving Sault St[e.] Marie.” Detroit Publishing Company Collection, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/det1994020791/PP/. Photoshopped.