“It is beautiful. But you know one sign of adulthood is when you look at a chandelier and think, That would be a bitch to dust,” I commented to Nini. She laughed and suggested a hair dryer to get off the dust.
We were at NC Museum of Art’s gift shop, discussing a beautiful but very complicated lighting fixture. (I should explain I have a proclivity for stunning—at times tacky—light fixtures and lamps, which has become a source of humor among my close friends. But the reality of cleaning and maintaining the dust level easily accumulated on such beautiful objects can be a deterrent. I keep looking at them because I have to replace a lot of lighting in the house I am renovating to turn into a B&B. Frankly, I need to move in a direction of less maintenance work in life, not more.
My entire adult life has been, and continues to be, a game of life-sized Tetris. “This piece—which is waiting for use—has to move over here, to make room for that piece, so that this piece can come back on top of it…” Right now, for Jock, the pieces for this Tetris game are rain barrels.
Currently, six rain barrels sit on the front porch. They are not connected to downspouts. Why are they sitting there? Why did they have to get purchased now and not when I’m ready for them? All very good questions. I purchased them immediately because of a combination of factors: I had the available funds; I had transportation to pick up six barrels; and I had a day to retrieve them.
New Hanover County Soil and Water Conservation District actually sells rain barrels to the public on the second Thursday of each month. Anyone who knows me understands when it comes to major purchases, I can spend months, if not years, researching and trying to make a decision. After some calculations on the average water collection for this house, I realized one 55-gallon rain barrel at each downspout was not going to cut it. I began looking for larger capacity rain storage about four years ago. Here is what I discovered:
• I could buy any size and shape I wanted; however, most tanks would not arrive preplumbed and the transportation of larger tanks was beyond my ability—thus requiring delivery.
• Once plumbing and delivery were added to the cost, tanks quickly doubled and tripled the price of rain barrels that could be connected to each other to make an ever-expanding chain if necessary.
• Then I discovered NHC Soil and Water Conservation District’s rain-barrel program. To top it off, the barrels are manufactured in Waxhaw, NC, by Rai Barrel USA.
Aside from providing water for the garden and landscaping, my hope is that by diverting rainwater from the 120-year-old gutters, I can address the twin issues of water undermining the house’s foundation—and constantly flooding basement. (I know: Who in their right mind has a basement below sea level?)
But why aren’t they installed? Well, like everything else, I need some other pieces to come together first. The slate roof needs to be finished first; putting obstructions in the way of the ladders seems like a bad idea. I have mortar repointing to learn, and landscaping to do. But I am looking forward to watering the garden from rainwater instead of a spigot.
Meanwhile other projects continue apace: John Stafford tiled the laundry room and downstairs bathroom. Hopefully, next week Jock and I will install the sink and toilet. Screen doors are slowly migrating to Stevens Hardware for repair. I was surprised to learn a few years back that Stevens Hardware does screen-door and window repair. Especially in light of the lovely and unseasonable weather we are currently having, a little cross ventilation can go a long way. Then there is the slate roof.
I spent a significant portion of last year researching slate roofing. I watched videos, read books and articles, and talked with people experienced in the art. I was nervous but determined to conquer my very reasonable fear of falling to a painful death—or, worse, enduring a life-altering injury—in order to repair the slate roof myself.
Then Jock had an intervention with me that went something like this: “If you get up on the roof, then I am going to get up on the roof.”
At 70 he really does not need to scramble around a third-floor slate roof.
“OK, OK, I’ll hire someone who knows what they are doing.”
In the meantime, three years into the VW bus project, I have come to the conclusion I need to drive it—at least around the block. So a tremendous amount of time and energy is currently focused on trying to get the Argus running with doors, windows, locks, and lights. John Wolfe and I resprayed the clear coat, re-installed the windows, installed a new wiring harness and are starting to hook up lights. She actually looks like a bus again, instead of a shell. That alone is huge. Jock and I are working on the engine, breaks, accelerator, and clutch. The transaxle is back in place. But it will simplify both our lives tremendously for me to have more reliable transportation that also can haul large objects. Really, I also need the sense of accomplishment of having done this. I set out on this project with intentions of learning how to restore the vehicle. Mission accomplished; there is no question I have learned a tremendous amount and completed tasks beyond my imagination three years ago. By the time she is actually road-worthy, I will know intimately every millimeter of her, inside and out.
However, the real issue at stake here is I am not spending time caring for, tending to and nurturing our home life. In the midst of all of this, that is languishing. The dogs keep looking at me like they aren’t quite certain who I am or how long I am planning to stick around. Jock is endlessly patient. We both dream big and work on long-term projects. We both understand the lure of ideals that are bigger than ourselves, and how those things can take over life: tikkun olam (repair of the world) in the form of Full Belly Project, the bookstore, and the seemingly endless work of participating in an informed democracy—locally, regionally, statewide, and nationally. I forget if I don’t take care of myself (body, mind and soul) and our home life, there won’t be anything left to give to others.
It can be hard to remember in the midst of other demands that sitting down and having a nourishing meal with Jock and the dogs needs to be the priority—because if I’m not doing all this other work in order to build a life with them, then what is if for?
So, the rain barrels will get installed. Just not this week.