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Robert Lawson, Pegasus (not dated)
" … Unbelievable …"

The plot twist might qualify as the most over-used literary conceit. Plot twists should appear only when absolutely necessary and should generally be less dynamic than most authors seem to presume. One need not necessarily rip the wings off the plane to affect a serviceable change of course. A wing-shedding turn might most properly be reserved for a once in a lifetime event, and even then, will very likely seem overplayed.

The general rule for believable fiction differs from the same rule for non-fiction, or what's posing as non-fiction.

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Robert Lawson: "Uncle Phineas was wrapped up most comfortably, smoking his pipe..." (1945)
[Perhaps a self portrait of the Author/Illustrator]
"The leather elbow patches make the real difference."

Though I have authored several manuscripts, I do not very often feel very much like an author. What does an author feel like? I thought that I might poke at that question this morning, for I seem to have an InnerAuthor inhabiting if not my body, then my spirit. When I can sense his presence, I catch myself behaving more authoritatively, more like the InnerAuthor I hope I embody. At other times, I feel far separated from that sense of that particular self, and I wallow rather hopelessly. My InnerAuthor represents my exemplar, the guy I aspire to become, my spirit guide. Every writer ever published seems to have believed that a multitude inhabits each person's psyche, each personality passing for 'me' for a time, all true yet none definitive. My InnerAuthor fits right into that characterization. He exists for the purpose of inspiration, not definition. When I'm channeling his presence, the label of Author just seems to fit. When not, it doesn't.

My InnerAuthor most closely resembles Robert Lawson, an author and illustrator who published through the first half of the twentieth century.

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Carl Moon: Women Baking Bread (ca. 1937-1943)
" … wrapped up as a manuscript."

It feels more ritual than purposeful, that first reading of the first printing of the pieces rendered into book form. I avoid this work like I avoid Covid, though I'm unsure why. I eventually manage to get over my aversion to reading my own writing and settle into the work, though it feels like hard work. I hold my red pen ready to highlight the errors I will most certainly spot, and dog-ear each corrected page for easier reference when I go back to update the mother manuscript. It's a long process. I measure it in ten page increments. something more than one hundred fifty pages. I anticipate a slog.

It's rare that I lose myself when reading my own writing.

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Ohara Koson; Reclining Tiger (Ca. 1910s)
" … up to perform my daily writing ritual …"

I am occasionally accused of appearing to be productive. I sincerely apologize for this appearance, but I assure you that the productivity seems to reside in the eye of the beholder. I consider myself a first-class slacker, rarely if ever doing very much of anything, though I might occasionally tag along on some adventure, but almost always strictly as an observer. The recently completed Grand Refurbish serves as just the most recent example of just such a misrepresentation, for I contributed little on that one and feel as though I mostly received credit for effort my hired crew performed. I added a few grace notes but little of any substance.

Still, that said, I also very rarely allow myself a day off.

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Pablo Picasso: Le Peintre et Son Modèle (1970)
"I do not want somebody different greeting me now."

Picasso had what some might have considered a very bad habit. He insisted upon producing paintings that had AlreadyBeenDone, often by painters judged far superior to him. Who could count how many 'painter with his model' canvasses he produced? Certainly scores if not hundreds, each one replicating a pattern at least as old and done as any subject he could have imagined. Authors do this, too, I'm moved to reflect. Someone once postulated that there were no more than six original plots in existence. Six plots to cover the entirety of human history in every language. The likelihood that my book or yours will introduce that long-elusive seventh plot seems unlikely, if not utterly impossible. It's common for an aspiring author, though, to notice that he's not been totally original and perhaps borrowed a few features from another author, one he's in awe of or jealous of. What constitutes an original work and where might plagiarism begin or end?

We're all, it seems, standing upon each others shoulders.

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Fritz Beinke: Der Jongleur [The Juggler: A Village Fair] (1873)
" … some soul-crushing effort."

Juggling separates writing from Authoring. Writing can occur within a variety of mediums. One need not know how to use Microsoft Word to write, as I daily demonstrate. Indeed, some of our most celebrated writers employ pencil and paper to craft their works, but since published works almost never simply photocopy an author's scribblings, some transformation from the original must occur and this does not happen without expending considerable energy, either the author's or someone else's. Indeed, each transformation, each shift of medium, also demands a proofreading pass, this usually requiring a higher skill level than the one performing the migration between mediums. Even moving writing between one software application and another introduces considerable complication into manuscript creation, since different apps tend to interpret the same intentions differently, producing formatting nightmares. I have yet to discover a single application that satisfies all the different demands a single manuscript must satisfy to pass muster, so the writer, or his staff, must engage in considerable and prolonged Juggling to produce a passable manuscript.

Writers as a class despise Juggling their work product.

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William Blake: The Tiger from Songs of Experience (1794)
" … right on time, in a photo finish … "

As a writer, I mostly work without the distraction deadlines bring. I have no publication date looming, no external expectations goosing me forward other than the rather tacit and largely unknowable desire my readers might have to receive my latest posting. I quite frankly don't think about that very much. The question of whom I'm writing for rarely comes up and my response rarely changes. I'm usually writing for myself and for future generations, neither constituencies terribly demanding. But once each year, I write on deadline, Deadlining, if you will. My Christmas Poem Cycle, twelve big fat juicy ones which must, according to the constraints I've constructed around the effort, emerge between Solstice and Christmas Morning. It's Christmas Morning as I write this essay, and the scent of Deadlining still clings to me.

I notice these last few days have felt different than my usual routine, though I've tried to maintain my regular routine underneath my Deadlining effort.

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Rene Magritte - Golconda (1953)
"I might break my stride or bust a rhyme and improve the quality of my experience."

In June 2000, London's Millennium Bridge opened to flooding crowds. Unpredicted by anyone associated with bridge design or construction, the mechanical resonance of the crowd's movement set up a small swaying within the structure. This movement further encouraged a kind of sympathetic resonance within the crowd, whereby people began walking in lockstep, further amplifying the bridge's swaying. Nothing came of this event, other than that the bridge was shut down for inconclusive investigations for the month following its opening. Way back in the 1840s, some soldiers marching across a Scottish suspension bridge, brought down the structure and ended up in the water below when their marching's mechanical resonance, much like that Millennium Bridge's crowd's, matched and amplified the bridge's. Soldier now commonly break stride when crossing a bridge to prevent such occurrences.

Writer's, too, maintain a cadence in their production.

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Anton Graff: Selbstbildnis mit Augenschirm [Self-Portrait with Eye-shade] (1813)
" … actual ink on actual newsprint."

The easiest ink this author ever gets comes from having a letter published in the local paper. It doesn't amount to much of an accomplishment, but I admit that I take great personal pride in it, reading the result over and over again as if marveled by its very presence. It seems precious to me there as I stare down at the same old page made wondrous by my letter's presence.

The local paper will publish almost anything submitted by any reader, and about a quarter of those they do publish appear have to been submitted written in fat primary crayon, probably with the 'r's transcribed backwards.

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Werner, E. T. C.: The Eight Immortals Crossing The Sea,
(1922) [excerpted from Myths & Legends of China. New York: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd]

" … a thousand lenses absorbing orthogonal perspectives, sending mixed messages."

I'm nobody's soothsayer. I cannot foresee anybody's future, much less my own. Furthermore, I don't really want to know what's coming next. Maybe I want to be ill-prepared when my future finally shows up. Maybe I just don't care, but I've organized my life more around the here and now than any there or then. I have aspired to little more than to do my work and be with my family and friends, though our Damned Pandemic has been straining ties to family and friends. I made that call day before yesterday to acknowledge that we would not be congregating for this upcoming holiday, either. The Muse and I are long distance grandparents, even after we managed to move back home.

As those of you who have followed my postings already understand, I fancy myself a writer.

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Ohara Koson: Bush Warbler in Winter (Ca. 1900-1910s)

"The brightest light on the darkest night of the year …"

Six months ago, light came wrapped in heat. We prayed for sunset, when the hostilities might hesitate overnight, but only to reassert themselves shortly after the following first light. We cowered from light then, when only darkness brought respite and light just seemed punishing. Between sunscreen and sunglasses, we'd suit up whenever we headed outside, long sleeves, long pants, and broad-brimmed hats. We'd rush between places, limiting the time we'd spend outside of our air conditioned spaces, constantly consuming cold beverages. The summer solstice brought more light than we wanted and more heat than we could handle.

Six months later, the light comes with cold in the form of snow which seems to emanate bright.

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Ohara Koson: Goose and Reeds (Ca. 1910)
"I'll have to wait and see …"

Our Grand Refurbish fully qualified as an ExtraordinaryTime. I extended myself special dispensation for its duration because I really felt as though I was engaging in something truly special, unique, and valuable. The effort at times felt overwhelming, but I mostly stood up to the challenges. Now I face a more daunting prospect, the utterly ordinary one of returning back into ordinary time. ExtraordinaryTimes offer easy excuses. Nobody really expects you to maintain regular hours if you're busy changing the universe. No one harshly judges anyone nobly engaged. End such an effort, though, and mundane duties and obligations rush in to fill the resulting void. There will be no citations for keeping up with the dusting and dishes. There will be few appreciations awarded for achieving nothing in particular.

For a time, I might reasonably expect to rest upon my laurels.

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Seated Male Deity Supporting a Vajra on His Finger (last quarter of 10th–first half of 11th century)
Indonesia (Java, Ngandjuk)

" … a meditation on sanity, vanity, and satisfaction …"

Prolific author and psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp told the story of how he learned to meditate. He checked into a Zen center where a master directed him to sit quietly in a corner and count to ten. Though this seemed an inauspicious beginning, he did as instructed. He quickly found that though counting to ten had never before posed a serious challenge, he found himself losing his place when sitting there by himself trying to count to ten, so he returned to the master and reported his difficulty. The master instructed that if he were to lose his place again, he was to just go back to one and begin anew. Kopp reported that it was the longest time before he realized that meditating was not about getting to ten but going back to one.

I imagine that I'm feeling a similar sensation as I set about attempting to live post-Grand Refurbish.

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Christo: Package on Radio Flyer Wagon, Project (1993)
" … before telling me what he intended to do for me that day."

"Are we done?" Our Carpenter Joel asked the question, which seemed to come out of nowhere. Done? So quickly? It had been four full months since he'd first showed up, ostensibly to just lay some vinyl planking and complete a few other chores. Those few other chores had grown to include quite a few more than a few other chores, including installing five large windows, refinishing a large staircase, and rebuilding a wall of shelves from scratch. His chop saw had become a seemingly permanent fixture in the middle of our living room since the weather had turned and his periodic saw dust injections had become a part of our accepted atmosphere. He'd just come out from under his rebuilt wall of bookshelves, having anchored their stanchions with fresh long screws, and he was out of work and ready to load up. He was moving out, PackingUp his van and heading home. I could not respond to his question. Though I had been anticipating an impending ending, I had not prepared myself to recognize it when it finally appeared. I found one tiny final task before releasing him from further obligation.

Kurt Our Painter would remain for another day, touching up and cutting in, finishing the final painting, always a lagging indicator of progress

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Bartolomeo Cavarozzi: Virgin And Child With Angels (circa 1620)
" … wrong crown, its Crowning achievement."

When the future asks after the Crowning achievement of Our Grand Refurbish, I'll retell this story, for it stands as at least emblematic of the entire venture. The Muse had insisted from our earliest conversations that we would finish the three main downstairs rooms with period-appropriate crown moulding. I was fine with leaving the crowns as they were but she was adamant. I know when to avoid doing battle, so I quickly conceded. Period-appropriate crown moulding it would be, then. We torn down the existing stuff and I donated it to the recycled house parts operation out at the old airbase. The replacement proved inconvenient to deal with since it came in sixteen foot lengths, so long that our carpenter had to fetch his other truck with the long overhead rack to transport it. We painted it before cutting and mounting it, but it was too long to store anywhere, so we had to work quickly. Kurt Our Painter spray painted the first batch, but that proved to be a big hassle. Two hours of prep and clean up for about three minutes of painting. It used a lot of paint, too, so we rolled then brushed the rest of the stuff, ending up inside after the weather turned, boards stretching between the two living rooms and creating a serious navigational hazard.

The lumber yard didn't quite know how to handle crown.

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Gulls Following a Farmer on his Tractor, State Historical Society of Iowa (Date Unknown)
" … what else have we got to amuse ourselves with?"

The final few furlongs of Our Grand Refurbish seem to condense all the effort into a few remaining tasks, with each taking on the weight and importance of the sum of all the prior pieces. The final coat of paint goes on in Jovian gravity, heavy and dense. The last screw set seems to pierce stone rather than wood, the driver groans under the strain. Minutes no longer slip by, but crawl. The day seems too small to contain our aspirations for it and for ourselves. Kurt Our Painter puts his head down for a day of dedicated Tractoring, him seeming to possess a hydrostatic transmission with an amazingly low gear, capable of shoving his way through anything. His usual slow-motion Kabuki dance becomes, if anything, even more intense. He appears relentless, but effortlessly so. If the past few days have been short and slow, these next couple will might well turn endless.

A force propels us now, more pulling than pushing.

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Vincent van Gogh: Sunflowers (1887)
" … which, of course, we ain't."

Let's consider looking at the Covid-19 pandemic as if it were one of those psychological instruments intended to provide feedback about who we really are. I know, those instruments might be the most widely misused and misinterpreted forms of self-discovery, but even this fact might better qualify them for this purpose, for this use. We don't usually read the instructions, anyway, but figure we might just as well muddle through. Muddling might be our primary means of engaging. Even when we have access to concise and accurate information, we tend to ignore that in favor of gut feel or intuition. We can consequently be fairly certain that those with their fingers on nuclear triggers have also not really read the instructions, justifying that decision with a belief that they'd never need to pull it. I mean, how hard could it be to destroy all humanity? Nobody's gonna be left to write that history.

We seem fatalistic, as if learning better might actually kill us or be more dangerous than remaining uninformed or becoming ill.

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Jasper Johns: [title not known] (1967–9)
"Long live our illusions …"

In this house, Plumb amounts to a fictional concept intended to be interpreted rather loosely. It never refers to anything like absolute verticality, which does not exist here, but to orthogonality relative to level or flat, which also does not exist in this fine home. Every surface might play off the general concept of level and Plumb, but never actual exhibit either. Our new library shelves, the last installation in Our Grand Refurbish, are taking longer to install than expected, though we might have reasonably expected complications. The left adjacent wall, upon close scrutiny, turns out to be roughly dish shaped and canted a degree or two off Plumb. It abuts into the freshly refinished window seat, which slopes ever so slightly back to front, perhaps designed that way to keep marbles from accumulating along its top. The right adjacent wall slopes slightly away from the vertical, necessitating much ciphering and trimming in order to yield more or less level shelf surfaces and also to properly fool the observing eye, which might otherwise discern just how out of Plumb the whole construction turned out to be. Properly constructed and painted, the eye will be fooled and satisfied, for it will conclude that this little corner of the world actually appears to be Plumb, a rarity and a fiction.

We seem to prefer our fictions and even conspire to preserve them against opposing evidence.

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Suleiman at Wasserburg on the River Inn, in a woodcut by Michael Minck dated 24 January 1552.
"We might need gruel work."

Through The Grand Refurbish, a few tiny annoyances remained out of scope but never out of mind. We'd focused our attention on specific portions of the place and chose—at first deliberately, then out of habit—to just let anything else slip by for that time, for we could have nattered away the opportunity by attempting to attend to everything at once. It just seemed prudent to narrow our scope of interest. There would always be a tomorrow. But nearing the end of The Grand Refurbish, few improvements need my personal attention. Our carpenter and our painter cannot quite muster full shifts between them now, we're down to one room, and almost down to a final wall. Those tiny annoyances began calling again or, more properly stated, those TinySignificances continued wielding their power. I finally gave in.

The bathroom door had come to scrape on the floor beneath it.

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Henri Matisse: Blue Pot and Lemon (1897)
" … precisely what it always was and then some."

The Muse and I hired a professional painter for Our Grand Refurbish, both an expensive proposition and a priceless one. We'd never been ones to hire done our painting, figuring that we might just as well do that work ourselves and retain the wages we would have laid out. We never would have known what we would have foregone had we chosen to go that route, for one cannot notice what one does not experience. Following Kurt around has provided an education for me, exposure to much I never knew or understood about the fine art of house painting. It turns out to be every bit as exacting as anything Matisse ever produced, requiring deep skills in color, technique, and much more. For someone like me, a surface is a surface is a surface, but to Kurt, each one's a little different, demanding a unique approach. We've used a half dozen different primers alone on this job, each formulated for slightly different conditions, ones only an experienced eye might ever discern. After five months of learning, I'm catching on to much I still need to learn. I can't now imagine ever painting anything again without first at least seeking Kurt's wise advice and counsel, if not his paint brush. Oh, and I'm officially no slouch with a brush and a roller, myself.

I've been noticing how our master performs, though, like any first grader might notice in his first teacher.

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"I pray that I will find a ready penny when my comeuppance comes …"

Our home, The Villa Vatta Schmaltz, might be best described as the sum of its kludges. The midnight fixes that were never formalized the following morning. The interventions completed by unqualified technicians. The misunderstood instructions. The leftover parts. I might be slightly less than fully-qualified to even own a home, let alone expect myself to maintain it, but I have not always found myself in a position where I might contract with a qualified technician, so I'm forced to perform some fixes myself. I wander around the Ranch Supply or The Home Despot, every bit the homeless waif, for my home stands in that moment broken and I've been called to fix it. I might hold a notion about the source of the problem but I don't know the nomenclature, so I attempt an explanation to a hostilely disinterested clerk. I might as well be speaking Ukrainian for all the good my describing does. I'm very likely to be led to a dreaded part of the store, a part filled with tools and materials I've truly never seen or even imagined before, and abandoned there, much worse off than I was before, when I just didn't have a clue.

I call my preferred method of fixing everything TheSecondOrderSolution.

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Camille Pissarro: Bois de châtaigniers à Louveciennes (1872)
"We're improvising our exit scene …"

As Our Grand Refurbish neared its end, progress became erratic. Crew called in sick or excused themselves for appointments. Expectations smeared. I feared that we might never finish, that we'd become one of those good ideas that never quite coalesced and remained permanently undone, and this outcome could happen to anyone. We tend to envision an end state but not the last furlong of the race. We seem to expect some sort of grace to nudge us over that last hump, when finishing, Phinishing, might be a unique and separate art, like the kind a closing pitcher practices, almost but not entirely unlike the skills that formerly produced the start and progress. The production mindset seems in need of disruption to finish, otherwise it might just continue to replicate itself into never-endingness. We need the opposite of that now, and it seems likely that we'll have to violate some deeply ingrained habits to pull that off. Phinishing's not just stopping work, it seems a serious disassembling process. Rather than building, we're set to take away now.

The inertia of motion argues against ever stopping.

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Claude Monet: Snow Effect at Argenteuil [Effet de neige à Argenteuil] (1875)
"nobody ever knows if they even exist … until they manifest on the page."

While I felt myself WindingDownish yesterday, this morning, I sense myself SpoolingUp. WindingDownish mostly involves reflecting while SpoolingUp focuses upon projecting, anticipating, preparing. It's a head-in-the-clouds experience where the future overshadows both present and past. I see the end of Our Grand Refurbish coming, but more compelling, I've started hearing my annual Holiday Poem Cycle calling. The Muse, often ahead, began baking her holiday breads last weekend. I'm just waking up, realizing that I have a dozen or more new poems to write between now and Christmas morning, and that I have not yet started stockpiling possible illustrations to serve as inspirations.

I began this tradition twenty years ago when I became disgusted with the sense of obligation this season wrought in me.

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André Masson: Battle of Fishes (1926)
"I left a few once-shiny screws which I intended to use to hold impermanence together."

Time seems to slow as this year moves closer to its ending. The days grow shorter but feel longer, some days seeming interminable in their passage. I swim through thick molasses on my way toward New Years. This year has been like no other, for this year, I lost my darling daughter, which opened a wound that could never heal and hasn't. It was also a year overflowing with hopefulness, the year The Muse and I undertook The Grand Refurbish, an effort deliberately imbedded with much needed promise. We ended our exile and moved back home but delayed moving in until we'd fixed up the place for our entrance. Here but not yet present, either, we spent the final three-quarters of the year suspended in place, no longer there and not yet here. Now time itself has lost its usual cadence, passing in slow motion if, indeed, it's passing at all. Some days, lately, time just seems stalled.

My notions of progress conflict with my understanding of entropy, this universe's governing quantity.

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Ohara Koson: Monkey and Moon (Ca. 1900 - 20)
A long armed monkey is trying to catch the reflection of the full moon on the water surface.

"I sometimes, briefly, become the destroyer of my own world …"

I have been using the same blog software for fifteen years but I just barely understand how to use it. It sometimes gives me fits, crashing or otherwise inhibiting my simple demands for it. I chose it over the more popular alternatives because it's a native Mac application and so it works more intuitively, or so I tell myself. It mostly works without me having to know how it works. I'm confident that I only know about 1% of its features, but I almost never need to know any more than that. When I get into trouble, a User Forum provides a channel to connect with users who know one heck of a lot more than 1% of the system's operation. When the User Forum's stumped, I can resort to the developers' help desk, which, being located in Brighton, England, usually takes until the next day to get back to me. It might be every app user's dream to be the one to uncover some fatal flaw in their chosen application, to report it to the developers, and to have them heap praise on the one user who helped them avert absolute disaster. No, that's never happened for me, either. We usually find that my ISP has been messing with me or that I've inexplicably gotten tangled up in my own underpants. I tend to be the source of almost all of my so-called TechnicalProblems.

I complain about the technology, but I increasingly understand that I'm actually complaining about myself.

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Paul Cézanne: The House with the Cracked Walls (1892–1894)
"My bushes rely upon my heartlessness …"

With the Refurbishment winding down, I found some time on my hands and YardWork needing doing. The winter rains were predicted to begin, after which whatever leaf litter I'd left would become a sodden mess, so I set to play. I do not consider YardWork to belong to the same activity class as labor, or if it does, it falls well within the boundaries of labor of love. It's play, a matter of rearranging orders whether pruning or weeding, it seems to be all about balancing. The weed I do not stoop to pull this time through will remind me what I didn't do the next time I pass through, and will continue to remind me until I decide to do something about it. I keep mental notes about which parts have been begging for some attention. The Refurbish rendered me unavailable to come out to play for months and months. It's reassuring to me that my absence didn't seem to inflict any permanent damage. The yard abides.

I hide my messes behind the garage, around the composter, which is an active mess in continual process.

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Paul Cézanne: Antoine Dominique Sauveur Aubert, the Artist's Uncle, as a Monk
"The nights are dark but our hearth feels warm."

Because nothing says Happy Holidays like a big, huge bucket truck festooned with lights. Festooned, being one of those words essentially reserved solely for use during December, serves as a big tell as to what's going on. The Muse and I are watching our small city's annual holiday parade, the FestivalOfLights. Main Street, holiday lights off, stands lined with people on both sides as a long line of clearly Homemade floats passes by us. As near as I can tell, the opportunity for families and strangers to wave at each other might serve as the primary purpose of the whole charade. It's equally absurd and endearing. A guy rides by astride a sway-backed Appaloosa playing We Wish You A Merry Christmas on a battered trumpet. No explanation offered or demanded. The crowd applauds. Another big, huge bucket truck rumbles by, lights manically flashing, its advertising unreadable, rider waving, smiling, and greeting. I'm moved to tears.

It had been years since The Muse and I attended a hometown parade.

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Peter Paul Rubens [1577-1640]: Portrait of a Monk, date unknown
"I mumble my vespers to myself …"

I seem to go through periods, like Picasso's Blue Period, where I maintain most of my focus upon a very narrow range of interests. These periods can last from a few weeks to decades, and I find them both enormously satisfying and ultimately a bit suffocating. Nearer the beginning of these phases, I immerse myself in discovery. A novice then, I hunger for ever more information. Later, I might seem a tad compulsive as I erect and defend strict boundaries around my discipline, my concerns. I might seem heartless to others' perspectives, seriously disinterested, even dismissive of what others might find compelling. Later in these chapters, I might grow restless, feeling as though I might have just about sucked all the goody out that that particular popsicle. I might even grow bored and go AWOL, leaving cohorts in a lurch. Obsession has phases, just like anything else. There's no happily forever after anywhere.

Our Grand Refurbishment has been such a period.

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Detail of the preparatory design by Gustav Klimt for the mosaic friezes of the main dining room of the Stoclet Palace
(Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna) (circa 1903)
"The final act of every improvement TouchesUp."

Almost nothing finishes like a horse race does, with successes and failures neatly lined up in decisive conclusion. It's gone in an instant. Most activities end with more of a smear on their lens, approaching finished but never quite there yet, a spin away from conclusion. Eventually, the crowd disperses and the stadium quiets, then one might reasonably deduce that something happened but clearly, if not decisively, ended. An absence replaces a presence and we call that negative space a done. Before drawing that conclusion, though, picky little endings need tidying up. The effort might be largely concluded but not yet minutely finished. In Our Grand Refurbish, cast brass window locks sit atop sashes but have not yet been attached. Several doors remain to be hung and adorned, at least one needing some serious sanding on top in order to fit back into its frame. Little bits of painting remains, too, final coats and ragged edges, a few nail holes still need filling and final dressing, Touching Up. It's like a final accounting before the crew departs the building. The list of needed TouchingUps shrinks but seems essentially bottomless.

I like the idea that the last activities are classified as touching, for much of the Refurbish work seemed a whole lot more brutal, crushing blows and smashing throes, cutting carpeting, extracting tiny staples, floating walls and ceilings, burying past mistakes, hiding unfortunate legacies.

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Nikolai Bogatov: Beekeeper (1875)
"They leave little footprints in the dust …"

A swarm of activity erupts from Our Grand Refurbish as we near completion. Completion still seems like absolute fiction. I cannot yet quite imagine our living room unlined with cardboard and not filled with saw horses, paint smells, and an enormous chop saw. Joel Our Carpenter pulled up to the front in his van yesterday to disgorge yet another load of fine-grained boards destined to become sills and trim for the final fresh window. I was poised on a tall ladder painting highlight trim around the last new window while Kurt Our Painter treated library shelves with conditioner in preparation for staining them. Never before in the long months this effort has dominated, has such a variety of activity bloomed at once. I cannot keep up to supervise. Fortunately, any effort as mature as this one shouldn't need much supervision. It manages itself.

It might be that we could not have possibly kept up had this variety appeared any earlier.

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Thomas Hart Benton: Cotton Pickers (1931)
"I can carry a hammer anywhere now!"

Our GrandOther Kylie has taken to engaging in cosplay, wherein she dresses up in the costume of some Manga or Nintendo character for the apparent purpose of becoming that character for a while. Her evident pride and satisfaction as she explains her character's particular proclivities speak to the efficacy of the practice. I, never having heard of these characters before, sort of fuzz over at her explanations because I really cannot relate to them, but I engage in my own curious cosplay behavior which might well baffle anyone else. Just this week, for instance, I started test driving a pair of Overalls I'd purchased online on a whim. I saw them there, on sale, and decided in that moment that they might serve me well, or, better than my then current handyman garb. Through Our Grand Refurbish, I'd ruined three pairs of otherwise perfectly respectable jeans, wearing out the knees on two of them and slopping another pair with so much paint that they're unusable for anything but painting. Further, those jeans lacked the pockets I needed, and their cantilevered construction meant that I spent a considerable part of my day "hiking" them up. They were always sagging.

Something about that photograph of those Overalls caught my attention and in that moment, I'd nabbed the pair.

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