Sunday Morning ~ Understanding, Little by Little

Sunday Morning ~ Understanding, Little by Little

Gwada, umvetse. ~ Kneel down in order to understand. 

~ Chewa proverb

May 16, 2021

Hi Everyone,

When we could only afford to live in cheap rentals I was always miffed when people complained about house maintenance. I’d loved to have had that problem. I was aware even then of how owning property creates wealth and how so many have been excluded from that privilege. While longing for a home to care for I spent years reading everything I could about houses as if they were living beings. I clipped photos from magazines, learned about passive solar, natural materials, tools, and energy flows. I had always wanted to buy an old house and renovate it, but my husband wanted to build new. He had childhood trauma of home maintenance and thought a new house would require less of it. He adamantly refused to consider wallpaper because he’d hated removing it, provoking many an argument. (I think we ended up in marriage counseling over that one.) I relented on the new construction and am so grateful for the home we created, custom for our lifestyle. I like taking care of it and thirty years later I’ve finished painting original woodwork and now it’s time to fix things. I love knowing the bones of this place, watching it grow from the ground up. I love knowing how the water lines travel to each sink, where the electrical wires split, how the windows are situated to catch angles of the sun. I can’t imagine leaving it, though at some point I know it will become too much.  

When we moved here we were eager to become part of a community but found it’s not so easy to make close friends once you are out of school. Spending hours of your day living with others creates a unique intimacy. It’s a time consuming investment. Raising a young family and finishing a house while working full time didn’t allow for nights out at a bar or weekend days carousing with friends. We wondered how to create those kinds of friendships. My sister told me about a barter group they had in western Canada where a few families would alternate helping each other do home chores. For me, this checked every box. We would be productive (something I live for), creative, and build relationships. It rang of an old fashioned barn building and I thought we could make lasting friends. I set about finding a few interested families. It took about a year, but three families from church got caught up in my enthusiasm. They had young kids, a similar life philosophy, and overwhelming home maintenance projects. They loved the idea. We had a couple of meals together to discuss how to set it up. We were all giddy at the prospect of getting a ton of shit done at our houses while making friends. It was brilliant. We planned one Saturday a month, no excuses. We rotated houses so we each got four work days a year, one for each season. The host family provided three meals and unlimited beer. We started at seven a.m. and usually ended around seven p.m. when the kids got whiny and beer ran low. 

We had some harrowing experiences mostly involving ladders and chain saws, but once everyone survived without lasting injuries they became hilarious stories to be told over and over. One project at our house was installing a hot tub. This was a few years into our “Work Day” experiment and we already knew each other well. The guys prepared the site, dug the trench, laid the wire, then laid the cement pad. They carried the large seven-seater tub around the house, set it up, wired it, filled it, and we were soaking in it later that evening. We sat under the stars, drinking beer, talking about what a great group we had and what a great idea this had been. We reviewed all the projects we’d done: built a deck at Jim and Louise’s, built a shed at our house, kitchen renovation at Jeff and Laura’s, and many, many smaller jobs: thresholds, trim, wood clearing, bonfires.

We laughed about all the near catastrophes: falls from ladders, dumb ideas about taking trees down, etc. and someone suggested we write a book about it. It had been such a good idea and we had gotten so much accomplished we thought others might want to know how we did it. It could be a how-to manual! Someone enthusiastically said, “It’d be a best seller!” Then Jim said, “But someone should have an affair. That would make the book so much better.” We laughed about that and made some funny (we thought) remarks about who it should be, etc. etc. Unfortunately, it was my husband who ended up doing that and two years later he was gone. And so was the group. And it wasn’t funny.

I kept the house and the hot tub got a lot of use over the following years. The entire high school track team would be in there after a meet and (I learned much later) plenty of other teenage partiers when I was away. Fortunately, no one drowned (that I am aware of). I read many books in that tub, cried a river, bird watched, and pulled my life back together. It became my haven of relaxation after long days and nights of work. It was a place where friends had long wine-soaked heart to hearts. It was worth the price for all the therapy it provided. It lasted longer than expected but gave out this year and I reluctantly added it’s disposal to the home maintenance list. Instead of hiring someone to take it away I thought I’d rent a dumpster and cut it up. I sat down to YouTube to see how to go about it and was shocked to see how many videos there are of people cutting up hot tubs! And they make it look so simple! Five simple cuts with a reciprocating saw and haul it all away. I couldn’t wait to get to it. I even own the saw!  Hahaha. Very funny. I’m glad no one was filming me. I spent ten minutes trying to cut through the rim, my arms jarring out of their sockets, and barely made a dent. I was about to give up but then thought, wait, I told a bunch of people I was doing this and am reluctant to admit defeat. That won’t work. I knelt down and looked at how I could cut through small sections then thought,  “I can just do it like a cake, piece by piece. I’ve got the dumpster for a whole month, what’s the rush?” So, four days, a twenty dollar blade, and a sore back later, that puppy with all it’s memories is ready to be hauled away along with a couple of mattresses and an old rug. Pangono, pangono as they say in Malawi. Little by little, it can be done.

Love to all,


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