Rendered Fat Content


François Boucher: The Interrupted Sleep (1750)
"I don't need a world or a home that doesn't seem to need changing …"

While painting yet another door front yesterday, I started thinking about all the changes The Muse and I have visited upon this old place over the twenty years we've owned it. Once we complete this current refurbishment, we will have changed flooring in every room except the basement's, every room's wall and trim color, removed and refinished or replaced every window, rebuilt the back porch, stripped the exterior to bare wood and repainted it, torn off four layers of roofing and replaced sheathing as well as roofing and gutters, repointed the chimney, replaced the front steps and entry walk, replaced half of the front retaining wall, replaced the heating system and added central air conditioning, repainted the surrounding fence, and extensively reworked every garden. We will still have a list remaining of future changes to make. As near as I could see from my pop-up paint shop, we had been Changing only superficial surfaces, not the house. It would look like a falling down wreck had we not completed those efforts, but they changed little. It seemed to me while leaning over that door that we had been more putting the place back into order than changing anything. Time had attempted to change it, maybe entropy got involved, and we just restored it to some state closer to its original condition if not precisely into the same configuration.

When removing the regrettable wall-to-wall carpeting, I found the place's bones lurking underneath.
Likewise, when we rebuild the backend kitchen, we undid several unwise "improvements" while uncovering original bones. The planking we're installing covers not original pine flooring, but the linoleum mid-century modernism insisted be installed over them, wounding the place's character without Changing its bones. Our planking might more closely resemble the original flooring. For this house, the way forward seems to have been offering a way back, which leaves me wondering just what we think we're Changing with all of this effort. The doors I've been refinishing have not changed as a result. Sure, spackle filled some dings and the fresh coats of paint hides imperfections, but each door remains substantially unchanged after I've finished fiddling with it. I've even labeled each door so that it can go back into its original door way. They were not made interchangeable.

I concluded that I deal exclusively in superficiality. The Changing I engage in changes very little, just the surface of things, more like painting than creating anything new. No new door openings have appeared as a result of any change we've instigated over these past twenty years. New sidewalk, same path. New glass in original window frames. Affecting anything more substantial simply seems beyond me, beyond my meager powers. Further, I'm satisfied with this place as it is, as it stands here, as it has more or less always stood. That's not to say that she doesn't have certain shortcomings. A smaller than ideal master bedroom and bath. A garage too small to hold even a single car. A basement in need of a bathroom, shower, and utility sink. It might be that before we're finished here, we'll go beyond the strictly superficial. We just have not gone there yet.

And in a similar vein, I want to explain that it was never my intention to change this world. Not that I was completely satisfied with this world as it stood and as it still stands today, it's just that world changing seemed an irrelevant intention, attempting it, a recipe for disappointment or worse. Furthermore, the world might be fine as is. I know her shortcomings. I've been painting doors here for years and years and this place seems considerably improved whenever I've finished my superficial doings. This world seems more wounded by those who set about to change it for the better. Better for who? I wonder. Better or worse, we're cursed with the urge to change things. I see a door and I notice its need for some improvement. I'm learning after decades of distracted practice that I'm best if I'm focused upon Changing something superficial. I don't need a world or a home that doesn't seem to need changing, just one with a few doors in need of fresh painting.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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