Friday, October 8, 2010

I need to brush a coat


I need to brush a coat of smelly protective sealant onto our side of the cedar fence the neighbor installed at one end of our backyard several months ago. But a few weeks back, shortly after she furnished the material and asked me to do it, the weather changed to an on-again off-again rain cycle. There have been sunny days when I thought the wood might still be too damp for the job. And there have been cloudy days when I thought the sealant, if I brushed it on, wouldn’t have sufficient time to dry. The rest of the time, I’ve been too busy. As inclined as I am to help, family and work come first. I’m not about to get involved in a job like that, for instance, when our little grandson is here. And I’m not about to tackle it when I could be sitting here making a bigger mess of my life by adding material to the wobbly archive that has come to symbolize and define my existence. The very thing that has brought me here, to this state of joyful melancholy, anger, and pride, this state in which I mumble, wear hats indoors, and chew on my uncle’s empty, unlit pipe, is something I will continue to embrace. I know when I have a good thing going, even when it threatens to destroy me and ruin the lives of the ones I love.

In any case, cedar has its own natural preservative qualities — not to the extent of redwood, certainly, but if I don’t get to the job until next summer (I could be dead by then!), I’m sure the fence will still be standing and be none the worse for wear.

To compound matters, about three weeks ago, the neighbors behind us left a note on our door (because I didn’t answer the bell when they rang) saying they want to replace the fence between us, and that they want to have my “thoughts on the idea,” which of course means, among other things, that they wonder if I’ll be willing to pay half the expenses. I have yet to answer. The fence has long since eroded to the point that it’s being held up by ivy, but the thought of removing it and preparing the area for a new fence while our yards and windows remain exposed for days or weeks is almost more than I can bear.

It’s economical in the long run, of course, to maintain one’s property by making improvements and repairs. But I am comforted by a certain amount of physical decay. And, as if proof were needed, just as I typed that period, I was startled by a spider dangling from the edge of the desk, about six inches from my left hand. With a pencil, I set it free on the rug. Now it’s gone. Peace, friend.

Meanwhile, mental decay, which is what this session is really about, I also find comforting. I do not ponder a universe without regrets, any more than I do a life of obscene order. Sane is a four-letter word. When the door slams shut, it doesn’t matter which side I’m on. What matters is that there’s a door, which implies a room, which further assumes a need for that room, when a cave will do just as well. I might even, while I’m here, draw stars on the walls.

9 comments:

Two Tigers said...

"I might even, while I'm here, draw stars on the walls." That could easily be the summary of a life's purpose. A good one at that.

And I have to say it - "good fences make good neighbors." Of course, Frost probably didn't write that on a day his neighbors were pestering him to do repairs..

William Michaelian said...

Probably not. All through my growing-up years, our nearest neighbors were a quarter-mile away. “Living in town,” as we called it then and still do, is something I’ll probably never grow accustomed to.

RUDHI - Chance said...

I like rotten fences - had the same *problem* with my neighboring: I said if he like he can do; I don't need a new one. But on the other side, where I have no fence to the open hill, the farmer made a huge curve cutting grass from my highgrowed garden - smashed hidden pumpkins too - and he said he only wanted to look it decend, and I said, I like my jungle garden as it is... So long, William!

Anthony Duce said...

I do like your approach to issues like the fence, both the one to be sealed, and the one held together by ivy. There is something to be said for natural wear/decay. I like the look much better then attempting to make new, what is already there. I love places like Venice where the building are falling down on the outside, but maintained within, in the space to be sheltered. Unfortunately the other half I’m going through life with, isn’t always on the same page. But then again, this is to be expected, being conditioned as many other halves are, to coloring over hair when natural turns, and touching up with make up those lines that form.

William Michaelian said...

So long, Rudhi! Sometimes I see people who would like to do the same thing with my beard....

All of which, Anthony, as I know you have observed, are such beautiful signs of character. There are so many subtle things that happen to us as we age that when we alter this or that of the more obvious ones, the ones society draws attention to, they seldom ring true, and often serve to draw attention to some other sign that we have lived.

rahina q.h. said...

another absorbing piece of writing: the life of an artist and his response to reality..

William Michaelian said...

Thanks very much, Rahina. It’s cloudy this morning and the street is wet. What a shame!

isabelle said...

I know I've said it before, but , words like this make me think of a very wise man behind them,thank you William.

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Isabelle. You send me back to my own text, wondering.