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Henri Matisse: Self-Portrait (1937)

"Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence." Henri Matisse

"I paint over inevitables."

I speak of Permanence without apparent irony, though I might be one of the most temporary entities around. My mailbox could outlive me, yet I undertake what I must clearly mistake to be permanent changes as part of my HomeMaking efforts. I contribute much impermanence, too. My lawn mowing undoes itself over the course of a week. Weeding might sustain for a month or longer. Watering, depending, might last for a day or two, seemingly always needing redoing. I rarely build anything permanent. I don't personally pour concrete, though I have directed others to do that to benefit this home, HomeMaking by replacing crumbling original replacements, which were intended as permanent replacements of the original pavement, which is long gone now. The house, subjected to one hundred and fourteen years of successive HomeMaking has proven more permanent than most of its parts. Inside, I doubt that the original owners and builders would today recognize what they'd wrought. The current front porch appears to have been built atop the original. Not even the original paint remains on the outside shell since I stripped it to bare wood, that and a few original windows.

Painting's about as Permanent as I get.
I've dug out gardens, thinking I've changed the landscaping, but even with attentive maintenance, it could revert within a season or two were I not here stewarding. Next Spring, I'll be almost starting from scratch all over again, satisfying seemingly permanent obligations. Permanence seems to require perpetual motion. I'm more of an intermittent, myself. Still, I have my days, ones where I leave more lasting impressions on the place. The (now damned) basement stairway, my latest point of HomeMaking focus, has been playing a game of Hocus Pocus with me through the week. I've touched every surface four or five times so far, and I still have three more coats of paint to contribute, one for the ceiling and at least two for the walls. I prime coated everything just to give the fresh top coat a more consistent base. After decades in place, the walls had seen better days. They stood almost as a monument to impermanence, still standing after many decades, but fairly ruined, plenty rough. My repainting will serve as no more than a facelift on a tenaciously impermanent base.

I seek to create a decent illusion of Permanence with my work. My tools, among the least permanent things on the planet. The caulking's rated to last for only fifty years, hardly a pittance in this place's existence. The paint will seem to have been permanent, just like the electrocuted green coat beneath my more civilized fresh one. Because it's the basement portal, It receives more than a stairway's usual allotment of insults: casual dings and inadvertent scrapes will haunt its intended Permanence. In a few short years, it will appear as shabby as it did before I contributed my latest permanent improvement, and want another makeover. I recognize the vanity in my interventions. A few short days kneeling before this almost afterthought of a space will not adequately replace its relative importance. I might implore The Muse to go see what I've accomplished, but it won't look like much. She watched me applying the sloppy base coat and marveled at my inexact technique. The slop coat's a wash, purposefully thick, intended to trick the eye into not registering the ten thousand permanent surface imperfections no preparation could erase. Painting, like Permanence, seems mostly about creating pleasing illusions.

In most ways, all of my HomeMaking antics amount to almost nothing when weighed against the backdrop of time, just like every activity shrivels in importance within infinity's context. I deal exclusively in small 'p' permanence, and it's entirely up to me to make up stories of redemption and encouragement for myself. I appreciate myself for trying, for contributing good faith efforts, though each seems destined for impermanence. There's this house of lovely design down closer to the middle of town that's fallen on very hard times. It's sweeping roofline sags and its paint peels. I fantasize about knocking on that front door and telling whomever answers that I've come to restore the place. Its design seems to deserve Permanence. It teeters nearer the end of Permanence than does our place, and I think a little love and a bushel of money might extend its tenure and render it less of an eyesore. But Permanence seems an exclusive property, temporarily possessed, then ultimately forfeited. It's not a natural property of anything except active imagination. I paint over inevitables. I water lawns while an unforgiving sun evaporates my intervention.


The receding week seems less permanent, too, than it did a short week ago, when it still held promise. It's made good on its promises now, though that transfer seemed like a genuine struggle. I could complain, but only without changing anything. It was as it was now, like this moment is merely what it is in its tenacious impermanence. Perhaps I can grasp something, a handhold as I pass, surrendered too soon and permanently for the next equally impermanent one. Strung together, though, these impermanences seem to produce something, perhaps a decent illusion of progress, perhaps enough Permanence for even a guy like me to possess.

I began my writing week fooling myself, as close to a permanent condition as I seem capable of mustering with
Flimability, my most popular posting this week. "I consider this blindness a blessing in wolf's clothing, for it serves to sooth what might otherwise be a troubled spirit."

I next sang the praises of my worst case imaginings in
Perdiction. "If I'm still there then, I'll know that my Perdiction kept me safe by blowing another inevitable all out of proportion, underdelivering by means of over threatening myself again."

I caught myself appreciating my many inabilities and my strategic refusals to engage in some HomeMaking activities in
Dabbling. "HomeMaking mostly involves Dabbling in a little off this and a little more of that other thing, most explicitly not in ever actually mastering anything."

I noticed how homes, long reputed to be one's castle, stop feeling very home-like when the HomeMaker's actively
Castling. "Castling only feels like living once the drawbridge comes down and the turreted gates open wide to let some inside out and some outside back inside again."

Dedicated readers doubtless caught on that I've been struggling into creating this new HomeMaking series, a state exacerbated by my decision to break my long addiction to nicotine. True to form, chaos properly reigned through the first few days of this change, one I described (and I apologize if this posting seemed like so much whining) in
Synapsing. "What usually happens is I send a complaint up into the heavens and in a day or two the difficulty resolves itself, as if Icarus had managed to fly around rather than a tad too close to the sun." My complaint worked its usual magic. I'm past that initial chaos now. Thanks for your forbearance.

I found what I think might have been a contributing factor to my disoriented struggling when creating this HomeMaking series. I had committed a fairly normal Fundamental Attribution Error when
Distinguishing what I had been doing. "HomeMaking is first about making the HomeMaker, then about making a home. It could not possibly ever be otherwise."

I ended my writing week with an odd paean to faith, a both necessary and sufficient element of HomeMaking, in
Turnings. "The wide and remarkably twisty road leaves ample space for surprises providing opportunities to disappoint even the more heart-felt fears. … It's never too late yet."

I began rereading this week's postings with a defensive dread. Before looking back, it seemed to me that I might have wasted an opportunity. That feeling shifted as I read, my dread, as usual, unfounded. I won't insist that I created anything with genuine Permanence this week, but I might have produced enough of an illusion of it to serve some purpose. I planned none of this beforehand. I played the hands I felt I'd been dealt, initially regretting my response. The result appears closer to what I'd intended when viewed through my rear view mirror. I cannot yet speak of going forward. To paraphrase Matisse, writing's like living with the advantage of Permanence. Thank you so much for following along.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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