Advent, House Painting, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricanes, Lifetime Guarantees, Preparation, Safe-Rooms
What I recall most about those first months of living on the Texas coast was a lot of talk about hurricanes. Older residents spoke of past storms, like Carla. Younger ones kept eyes more on possibilities circling far away. But when a storm pointed itself in our general direction, everybody talked of little else but the need to make preparations.
I never got the hang of preparing for storms, in spite of living through twenty hurricane seasons. It’s not that I didn’t notice folks covering their windows with plywood. Or that I could ignore all that serious stocking up on gallons of bottled water and flashlights and batteries, while I was off wandering the deserted aisles of the local super store buying everyday groceries. I often felt the fool showing up at the cash register with a loaded cart of perishables while other patrons had theirs full of provisions that any Boy Scout would have been proud of.
I used to blame this shortfall on living too many years near Oklahoma’s tornado alley. Twisters, I imagined, had ingrained into me a different mindset, turning me more into a last-minute responder to warning sirens, of rushing around for the best shelter I could find at a moment’s notice. I suppose I never wanted a storm cellar bad enough to invest in one. And apparently I still don’t; wouldn’t there be a “safe room” in my garage if I really wanted to be more prepared?
But the truth is that I’ve always been a little out of step with the real world and its seasons. No need to look further than my latest home improvement project, where I’ve spent the last few weeks outside painting the trim of my new old house. It’s in terrible shape. By its condition, I’d guess it’s been painted twice in sixty years. At its worst, bare wood is exposed and buckled while the best is alligatored and chipped.
All this adds up to a lot of preparation. Had it been well maintained, I could simply have cleaned the surface and engaged in a little light sanding. Instead, I’m also scraping away failed paint and filling in huge gaps that I’d guess last saw a caulk gun sixty years ago. It’s dirty and exhausting work. Every inch of surface requires a fresh application of primer, before receiving two or three coats of finish paint with a “lifetime warranty.”
I’m not sure whose lifetime that claim rests upon, but I hope it’s close to mine. All that ladder climbing has challenged my knees, especially on days where the wind has whipped around corners going twenty-five miles an hour. The knuckles of my right hand are stiff and swollen. My neck hurts. My lower back aches. But while ibuprofen has met its match, none of the hardships matter. Nor does it matter that my preparation regime is increasing total project time by fifty percent.
It’s hard to explain my need of getting this right. Part of it, I suppose, has to do with my age and the condition of my joints. This may be my only opportunity to do the job myself. But also, it just feels so darn wonderful to paint over a properly prepared surface. The brush simply glides over primed wood. The paint adheres beautifully, while evening out bulges and dings.
Sometimes I wonder what the neighbors think about my unseasonal painting project, bumping into the days of Advent as I have. But oddly, what they think doesn’t matter either. What’s more important is that I feel in sync with the spirit of this liturgical time, set aside by the Church to ready our spirits for Christmas, since I’m more attentive to my surroundings. I notice the sky beyond the roof, the birds flying south for warmer climates and the squirrels burying pecans in my garden. I catch colored leaves slipping from trees out of the corner of my eye. They fall around me like confetti in a parade. Everything, it seems, in the autumn world around me, is preparing itself for the season to come.
With days grower cooler and shorter, my outside painting is about over for the season. I’m only half-finished, but if I’m lucky, there’s always next year. I suppose another hurricane season must be over, too, though I can’t say for sure without conducting a search. No research is required for those living in areas of high risk. And this year with Sandy, maybe those living in lower risk parts of the country know, too.
The talk in New Jersey and surrounding areas on how to become better prepared is already off and running. Everyone there will be talking about Sandy for years to come, I imagine. It’s good to do what we can do. Though important to realizet we can never adequately prepare for another Sandy or Katrina or Carla. Or Comet and Donder and Blitzen. Or the coming of Christmas, even if Advent were to last from now to kingdom come.
Enjoyed this blog, I could see the leaves falling as I read and felt my joints stiffen in sympathetic pain. Janell, you are a very talented writer. I am glad I got to be a little part of Red Cake Sunday, everything was declicious and Christi’s house looked so festive. Next year I am hoping to have no other obligations and be able to enjoy the whole afternoon.
It was nice to gather at Christi’s and everything you mentioned about the day was true for me, also. The best part was seeing the fifth cousins warming up to each other, first staying with those they knew, then branching out to form a group of one and having a fine time of it all…to then, in the end, not wanting to part ways, even if it meant laying down for a nap in the next room. Reese never paid her dues to the world of nod, but maybe Grace paid for both girls. I walked in on the children’s bakery to hear talk of Kinsey’s secret ingredients, which I think I shared with someone — was it you? — I don’t even remember — but the thing I smiled about more about than talk of secret ingredients was Kinsey telling me that she was in charge of everybody. No one seemed to mind. Or maybe they all just let her pretend she was in charge. Either way, they played in harmony — and that was a fine thing to see.
As for the writing, some posts come together for me and some don’t jell, as Granny would say. This one fell into the latter category, though it’s good you found something to like about it. 🙂 In these days of hard writing and in a year of few posts, I finally decided to release it to the body of the blog.
I’m not real certain about this, but I think your painting is over, at least for a while. I’m sitting here waiting for the front to show up, and just for grins I checked out the OKC weather. I think your winter has arrived. I know there’s some snow in the Texas Panhandle tonight. Tap that paint bucket closed and relax. 😉
I did enjoy your musings on preparations. I’d far rather prepare for a hurricane than a tornado – the point being, of course, you can’t prepare for a tornado, short of a shelter. Down here in the land of no basements, even that’s not realistic. If I had a house or a boat, I might be slightly more uptight, but the fact is that’s what insurance is for. My rules are simple. Tropical storm, I stay. Cat 1, I probably stay, though I think about it a little. Cat 2 or above, I’m out of here.
Run from water, hide from wind is about all you need to know. And much as I sympathize with the plight of the folks on the east coast, their preparation for Sandy was abysmal. (That is, the preparation done by politicians, bureaucrats and FEMA.) So much was done wrong it’s pathetic. Live and learn, I guess.
But it is Advent, and we are preparing. I just realized more time has gotten away from me than I realized, and I need to Get On It Right Now, especially when it comes to things that have to be mailed. As for the rest of it? It may be the quietest Christmas ever. My traveling companion from last year’s trip to Louisiana fell and broke both an arm and a leg, so I’ll be sharing Christmas with her in the rehab hospital, just like Thanksgiving. (I may have told you this – I can’t keep up with what I’ve written where.)
Anyway, on we go. Don’t fall off that ladder and break something!
Quiet Christmases are good. It seems more of mine, of late, have fallen into quiet. The exterior paint buckets are close and I’m coming inside. — time to paint that dining room again. I don’t know what it is about dining rooms and Oklahoma, but since leaving Texas, I seem to paint mine every year. The last three rounds have occurred during Advent. Who knows why…
And no, you haven’t told me but I’m sorry to hear you may be grounded from Christmas travel plans. But if I know you, even just a little, I’m betting you’ll find something special to experience and write about not far from home. 🙂
Just stop by to wish you a Merry Christmas, Janell! May the Season be meaningful and rewarding to you and yours. Hope we’ll have the chance to read together again next year. No matter, whatever you’ll be doing, have fun and enjoy it all in your every day life!
Merry Christmas to you, too, Arti. Christmas here will be quiet, ushered in by a Christmas Eve candlelit service. The kids, at least three of the four, will be off celebrating elsewhere, which they know is fine with me. We are lucky in that we see each other often — throughout the year — that I don’t need to have them over on Christmas, too! I think (hope?) they see this as a gift of spaciousness — and one less visit to fill the day. My husband and I are planning to catch Les Mis Christmas afternoon. What a gift that shall be…
There’s been talk of snow, but I’m always skeptical till a few flakes fall to the earth. But I do enjoy a good snowfall — and the holy hush which follows. Snow and meditation/contemplation are made for one another.
Thanks, too, for the well-wishes for the new year. I shake my head that it can be so close, peeking around the Christmas corner as it is. But know, whether we read together some novel or not in the new year, that you and your blog enrich my life.
Blessings to you & yours,