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Henri-Edmond Cross: La Ferme, matin (1893)
"We'll be obeying rules now."

Throw a ball up into the air and it will fall back to Earth. In very much the same way, start a project and it will eventually turn back on itself and come to closure. Each effort encounters a point where progress no longer depends upon the initial push, but upon some force more like gravity which pulls the project to completion. Before that point, the job's all about opening fresh cans of worms and dealing with their contents. After, it's finishing touches and closing down, ButtoningUp. The project's not anywhere near over, plenty of work remains, but the nature of that work shifts. No longer exploring uncharted territory, we can reasonably foresee what's remaining. We're experienced, we've found our cadence and move to it. We're no longer poking sticks into darkness, but moving through light. We expect only modest surprises because we've already opened everything up. Now comes the closing down.

The critical component of our massive refurbishing had always been the arrival of the planking, the date of which was still very much in contention yesterday morning.
I'd called the flooring place to ask why they hadn't called when my flooring arrived as expected the day before, to learn that the flooring had not arrived as expected. A voice mail a short time later reported that the shipment was due to arrive the following day. Joel Our Carpenter retired to another job while Kurt Our Painter finished cutting in some recently reattached trim. We'd replaced all the windows we'd removed and even reattached all their trim, or most of it, and we were feeling a lull. The forward momentum had vanished. Progress paused.

An hour later, the flooring place called again, this time to tell me that my flooring had, indeed, arrived and was at that very moment, ready for pickup. A pallet and a half, seventy-one boxes, three thousand one hundred and ninety one pounds. I called around to see if I could find some goons to move that stuff into our second floor staging area and got lucky. Kevin had a couple of hours in his schedule and, after calling around, a small crew. I'd meet them at the flooring place. Back at The Villa, I stood on the front porch roof deck watching Kevin and his crew carry box after box after box of flooring up the front sidewalk and it hit me. We were ButtoningUp now. I'd pulled all the wall-to-wall carpet left to pull and painstakingly removed every staple and tack. We'd removed all but one room's baseboards. We'd finished painting all but two upstairs rooms and the staircase. Main floor work remaining seemed adjunct. The whole effort was collapsing in upon itself, inexorably now, finishing.

I felt a twinge of nostalgia for the time, a mere few weeks before, when we'd so innocently started this work. I was grateful for Kurt Our Painter's experienced hand, because I had no idea where to begin. As if we knew, we started at the front door and commenced to work inward, tearing up and we moved. Down came light fixtures. Off came baseboards. We widened a doorway, creating an avalanche of drywall dust. Each day for ten weeks of days, we pushed ahead, savaging as we progressed, making more messes than progress until suddenly, surprisingly, we caught ourselves cleaning up instead. Clearing places to cache all those boxes. Moving furniture to make way for finishing touches. Getting out of the way of actual progress, not just preparation, which had for the longest time seemed to have been our purpose. Kevin and his crew signified that we were through preparing and moving into ButtoningUp at last.

A certain sadness descends upon the Mountain Men as civilization threatens their feral ramble. The wild times cannot ever last forever. Tamer times follow but without initial welcome. Later, once the new order settles in, we might find reason to enjoy its comforts, but at first, adventure seems as though it's just collapsing. We might have to live within stricter regulation. We might hold actual responsibilities rather than just charged with making messes under the guise of preparation. That ruse escapes us from here. Now, actions have consequences. We're inflicting permanence upon ourselves and upon this old place again, a permanence much improved from how it was before we rudely intruded, but a permanence nonetheless. We'll be obeying rules now. We're ButtoningUp.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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