Rendered Fat Content


Juan Gris: The Sunblind (1914)

"Some future unobservant audience will most certainly be impressed …"

I say that I'm refinishing this door, but I do not expect to reach an end. A time will come when I will choose to abandon this effort as either lost or good enough, essentially equivalent conditions, and focus my attention elsewhere, but for now, for today, I focus here. So much of my life seems to carry just this quality, where I'm not actually doing whatever I'm declaring myself doing. I do not intend to misrepresent my actions, for with this kind of work, misrepresentation might be the only possible representation. I say I'm finishing. I might be refinishing, but I do not labor to reach an end. I labor to begin and to properly attend.

This door was once damaged beyond all hope of repair.
Then I decided to repair it. Building a new back wall for the garage, a door was needed and this derelict one seemed handy. For a garage backdoor, just how perfect would the door need to be? Not very, I concluded, then set to work to see if I could save it. Warped panels, wounded window trim, paint turned into melted crayon, this door was a veteran of decades in the sunniest spot, where afternoon sun mercilessly baked it. Could I make it good enough for this different purpose? Nothing to do but to set to work to find out. No guarantees. The door remains damaged beyond all hope of repair, but perhaps not beyond any hope of reuse. Good thing it need not become anything like as good as new. That's not my intention. Renewal makes nothing new again.

I say that I'm finishing this door, but I do not expect to ever be finished with this effort. Finishing was never the point. The point for me was to simply get started. Once begun, I expected something to happen. I'm practicing the fine and worthy art of self-deception. I fill cracks and glue panels less to fix than to project an illusion. I figure that if I can manage to fool my eye, my work might pass muster with those who might just be passing by and not really noticing fine details. So much in my life depends upon those passing by not really noticing fine details. I rely upon my audience's inattention to make my illusions work. With luck, nobody will notice that I never finished refinishing this door, that the finish is not quite complete.

This work seems asymptotic yet still worthwhile. If the purpose was not finishing but starting, every second I'm engaged in this work amounts to success. Time evaporates beneath the spell I cast, scratching cooked-on paint out of panel corners, smoothing moulding with pumice stone, vacuuming the faces again and again and again. I surprise myself with my inventiveness. I didn't know that I knew how to cut miters, let alone putty those corners and set the trim with the tiniest tacks, leaving the seams and reamings invisible to me, which means they'll be impossible for my unobservant passersbys to see. I become a magician, entertaining myself, sawing some lady in half and even knowing the trick behind the illusion, and still feeling almost smuggy about my talent. Some future unobservant audience will most certainly be impressed with how I managed to finish this derelict door without actually Finishing.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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