Rendered Fat Content


Dorothea Tanning: The Truth About Comets (1945)
"That last millionth of an inch makes all of the difference …"

A difficulty arises when considering how to measure progress of a refurbishment, which might reasonably involve many simultaneous activities. How might one measure doneness? Horizontally comes to mind for those of us poisoned by formal training and practical experience managing projects, but viewing refurbishments, like, indeed, viewing most projects as horizontal series of activities seems sort of like artificially propping up a body so that it looks more life-like. Refurbishments live mysterious lives and seem downright discontinuous in practice, with tasks started and stalled for tenuously unpredictable reasons. There is literally no predefinable path to conclusion, so any suggestion that one knows, for instance, how much effort remains at any point in time embraces an illusion, a better portrait of the projector's presumptions than anything really likely to happen. Progress might be better measured in the tiniest measurement available, one difficult to imagine, in Mils and Microns, and along a vertical axis, in depths.

You see, the most dramatic effect any refurbishment produces likely results from painting.
Sure, hanging trim can radically alter profiles and pulling carpet leaves sharper edges, but none of much of anything looks finished until a fresh finish has been applied and dried, typically three times. The result might be best measured in Mils, or thousandths of an inch, a barely discernible depth but one without which nothing's likely to look very done-ish. It's magic, really, after weeks of trying preparation, plain plaster becomes a respectable wall, trim boards artfully cut gain shadow and dimension, and the cut line between individual pieces becomes distinct and profound. Refurbishing, like most things, spends the bulk of its time preparing for an often subtle finish. One grows used to the irresolution to the point where one might come to not notice progress made. Then within the span of a few very short days, the painter plods through the works and leaves behind a masterwork.

It's like I've never seen this place before, but then I most likely had not ever seen it before. That result wasn't entirely my fault. Not every surface really warrants much scrutiny and, in fact, many seem to have been finished with the tacit hope that nobody would notice the sloppy finish or the compromising color. A sagging finish freezes time at a point well before any ending, producing an unresolvable visual better unabsorbed. Much of our spaces include such outrages. These deteriorate our very presence as we filter out the essence of the spaces we pass through. To live in rooms never properly finished, suspended just microns away from satisfactory, produces experience lacking closure. Whomever performed the last refurbishment here never finished their job, but left too much of it poorly formed and painted, mere
Milage from completion.

This refurbishment has taught me much. Perhaps my most important learning has been about Milage and its deeper meaning. Paint is almost an imaginary substance. It's best when spread remarkably thinly. The less used, generally the better. Thinner coats leave just as much color behind, the top Mil, the outside one thousandths of an inch, performs all the business, any excess seems wasted. Progress, then, seems best measured along the vertical axis rather than along the horizontal one. We end the whole shebang mere millionths of an inch away from where we started, but mere millionths of an inch that really make a difference. Much of the work was done, in retrospect, in homage and service to that last millionth of an inch. The weeks of preparation were practice for one final insignificant-seeming act. In a very real sense, no progress was made until we started applying paint. Had we neglected to attend to this smallest of possible steps, our work would have been for naught or less. I'm taking away from this experience a fresh appreciation for how small and seemingly insignificant real essence is. That last millionth of an inch makes
all of the difference, the rest just preliminary to purpose.


Friday arrives as a subtle-seeming layer. Nothing very explicit distinguishes between this morning and any other. Were it not for my ritual of performing this small retrospective, these mornings would not seem special. Maybe a micron of ritual makes the difference.

I began my writing week celebrating
LosingNews, contemplating doing without continuous breaking updates in favor of watching my own generally delightfully mending experience. "I don't believe in the popular conspiracies and I do not miss the fuss. I'm trying on a Homemade notion that we're all better than continuous commotion."

I next reported on my recent
Debasement, reduced to making good on an innocent promise to refinish baseboards. "Rather than wallowing in the lowliness of the work, I'm relishing this coda. I can apply everything I've learned through this whole damned Refurbishing: sanding, finish cooking, mending, priming, and proper finish painting, on pieces few visitors will ever notice. Masterpieces disappearing in the space between floor and ceiling."

Then I commenced to moving again, for this current moving in has been a continuous experience over the past six months. I've been coping by imagining I've been engaging in silly little games like
MusicalRooms, which is like musical chairs but played with the contents of rooms rather than with empty chairs. "Whole classes of possessions currently exist in what are essentially black holes. We suspect our stuff's still intact in there somewhere but cannot confirm this suspicion as fact. Only Schrodinger knows."

I next produced a small rant about the process obsessed and their influence, insisting that my work seems more based in
Inadvertencies than formal processes. "It was not know-how that enabled me, but not knowing, which leaves me wondering after the formal process for not knowing."

I posted a piece about perfection and what's perfect enough with.
Imp-Erfection. "Perhaps perfect lies along a continuum representing small to big perfection. Each point along that arc might represent some form of perfect."

I caught myself negotiating to continue this already endless-seeming Refurbishment effort in
Compleadings. "I want to remain a permanent work in progress, not someone accomplished."

I ended my writing week just about a mil distant from where I started, immersed in and considering
Cahnge. Considering what? How Change tends to feel. "We might be altogether too courageous for our own good, dangerous with hopefulness and wishful thinking."

I leave this writing week about a millionth of an inch wiser than I was when I started. My great discoveries seemed like rediscoveries and probably were, nothing I'd not encountered before and fine and thin but still imparting fresh depth. I might never again speak disparagingly of anyone painting over rather than replacing. Painting's not an act of denial, but one of renewal and acceptance. One could do much worse than paint over some problem. Thank you for following along on this Homemade adventure!

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver