March 1, 2018
Majestic. The sky’s contest, a vying among the then waxing moon, the awakening buds of a virile maple, my ever-diligent sentinel pines and, of course, my old stars and stripes. Which one is the prouder? Which one is the most apt frame for bluest blue skies? Majestic. And a heady question to delight my eyes and tantalize my mind.
Nope. You haven’t missed a holiday. (At least I don’t think so.) I just liked the picture, my old flag with white stripes now stained with dirt blown through trees and the soot of smoke from bonfires. Even though the metal clips are now replaced with unceremonious yellow plastic ties, it flaps through the breezes, royal, even if its permanent perch is the four by four post of my deck back in the woods.
I have stories to tell you and a promise to keep as I was thinking about writing. As I wrote in my head – which I do a great deal of the time – I noticed how “nifty neato” it would be to tie things together with the proverbial “I awoke from the dream. It had all been a dream.”
Um no. I promise to never ever write that ending or those words. That story line has to be the prayer of writers “Please, no matter what, please let me not resort to the ‘it had all been a dream”) We are, life is, my story, is not a dream. Well, actually it sort of is. (Could I write any worse?)
The tempest of Wisconsin weather renewed my attention to the structure of the roof. With earlier warmer temperatures, the roof scupper on the east side of the building had drained water. I apologize for my attention to the roof, but I will not apologize. The entire roof, 6800 square feet, had been replaced three years ago. The roof is surprisingly peaked, not flat, supported underneath, in part, by four dramatically handsome 1923 steel Triple Howe trusses (I am still unsure about the type, but I believe I am on the right track).
After that thawing, the weather turned brutally cold. My roofer, whom I almost have on speed dial in order to call through my panics about the roof, calmed my fears. The new roof, although huge and with thick insulation (11 to 12 inches – R35 – thank you very much), is surprisingly light in comparison to the load of the old roof upon these same trusses and the roof’s supporting and stabilizing exterior walls. I had time.
A longer thaw arrived five days ago. I turned up the temperature on the heaters I have placed near the roof drain pipes at the point in which they drop from the ceiling to the second, then first floor, and finally near the last larger six inch pipe in the basement which leads to the storm sewer in the alley. I had bought two rolls of heat tape to attach to the east side drains which lead directly from two spots in the roof to the inside of the building. I never had any freezing on the west side drains, but the east side I needed to prevent another ice build up as had happened last year. Last year, the scuppers – the drain pipes which flow to the exterior, would spill off the water as the snow and ice melt. A good fail safe to have, but not how a properly maintained roofing system should perform.
Four days ago I could procrastinate no longer. The thaw was going to happen. I needed to attach the heat tape. It is one thing to climb a ladder to remove framing around the trusses but quite another to climb high enough to wrap electricians tape around the roof drain then attach the heat tape. The end of the tape needed to go as high up as possible on the drain pipe, under the plywood decking, without actually touching that wood.
At first I allowed enough heat tape to extend upward. I could not make myself climb higher than the first elbow in the pipe. The piping’s elbow had iced the prior year, my roofer reminded me. I climbed the ladder just high enough so that by stretching I could wrap the tape to secure the heating tape. That particular drain pipe suspends above a clay-tiled closure which housed the old piping. When you are above it, you can see straight down, two and one half stories, from underneath the roof to the basement floor.
Scared? I was oddly petrified. I hugged that ladder, proud with every wrap, yet scared. And I knew I still had the worst to do. I hadn’t wrapped from the elbow up to the roof, the most critical piece.
Two more days went by. The day of the thaw. I climbed, hugging the ladder. I had forgotten or missed that there were old wooden rafters below that section of pipe. My 18 foot ladder would not fit unless I aimed the ladder’s top into the spaces between those two by eights. I aimed the ladder. I walked the ladder. This trial and error rearranging the ladder to fit in a spot I had not considered both drained and disgusted myself in myself. But I had heat tape to attach.
I climbed. Nor had I figured that I would need to go higher on the ladder. Seemed like another obvious point, but I think I thought I could stretch a bit more to cover the last foot and a half of drain pipe.
I squeezed myself between the rafters and the ladder. I realized I was no longer looking up at the rafters nor a foot away from them. I had pinned my body against the truss and hugged it.
I looked down. I looked at the expanse across the tiled closure. I hugged that truss. Being higher up was easier. I smiled. I had ‘made it’ across the two and one half story drop. I had left what I thought would be the most difficult because I was so scared of going higher.
No, Steph, no. Smilingly, I reprimanded myself. How thankful I was, that I had not wrapped the beginning part, the highest spot. I would not have realized or appreciated it. I had been terrified each step across the closure. Here I was, higher up by at least two and half feet, but not reaching. I was hugging the trusses.
It is a non picture sort of picture, a Wisconsin day of snow among a line-up of such days, in a little piece of woods, in a non adventure of adventure.
I do happen to own two buildings, the youngest of which is a ninety five year old brick former armory and technical school, with the intent of really making my business a profitable one. It could be a rather snobby existence but the business ownership and the creative processes are the personal passion. I have a dream!
But the biggest adventure has been the adventures of nonadventure. (Did I mention I am a huge fan of Yogi Berra-isms? A sample, in case my references are dated, is “It isn’t over until it’s over.” Sigh. Beautiful. True and succinct.) Like these line-ups of Wisconsin snow days I have been recovering from years – no a lifetime – of, well, to state so politely, turbulence. Of violence not of my own making. Of harshness.
I love photography but rarely would I share, purposely, a nonpicture picture. But to me it represents the beauty of my adventure as it really is. Nothing about buildings (although I love them), but an adventure about building days upon days of nonadventure wholeness, a softness not of the pillow variety but a softness of the touch of persistent wind and softness of gentle determination. A loud silence of ones own thought.
That and once in awhile a good belly laugh. (If I am going to be adventurous, I might as well write the book on ‘happy adventure’. I mean, why not?) So, please give me the adventure of walking through the woods during winter. Let me walk down the road in a blizzard with the dog, my jacket wide open to feel the bite of winter wind upon my usually sheltered skin and my mouth just as wide open, scooping up snowflakes, giggling as I call after Wally, my dog.
I have nothing against the trips to Barbados and condos around the globe, but I think for ninety percent of us, that is not life. And life gets pretty grey (and not in those ‘Shades of Grey’ grays either.)
The above pictures? Adventures of inspiration. My annual experimentation with poinsettias and colors. Softness and growth. Adventures differ from person to person but that is itself a starting point. Launch yourself into active observation. Give yourself time. Give your brain a chance to breathe. Learn to make decisions. Learn to think without stress.
So, I am on an adventure. My own kind. Depending upon how you look at it, I am either resetting or maybe, I finally found my path. Oh, I do not think I messed up like ‘look at all the years I wasted.’ No, I think it took my lifetime to realize how greatly I wanted that path.
During a snowstorm on a Monday night with 1983 soft techno, instrumental vibey music videos with pre-digital art videos, with the smell of a cup of coffee I had spilled, and with the sounds of my son’s voice and the sight of Wally at my feet, I begin my nonadventure adventure. Softly. Purposefully.
Seems fitting, to choose a Monday adventure that which scares, yet calls to my heart. To be lucky enough to have a chance to choose.
I have a long way, a long long road before I ever begin to write decently. But that’s another point of my adventure – I have learned about myself.
The first thing I have learned?
I never give up.
Love. Lots of love. And a kiss.