Friday, May 28, 2010

Zen and the Art of House Painting

It is house-painting time again. It seems like it is always time to paint this old house. The last time I painted my house was July 2005. I know that from the date on the can of paint in my basement. Within three years it was starting to blister and peel. It is not because I painted it wrong. I had a professional painter do it last time, and it still started peeling in three years. These clapboards just don't hold paint.

It never has. That is what the old-timers on my street tell me. Some of them have watched it peel for decades. They have theories why this house is paint-resistant. "When it was built, the clapboards were green. It is because they are cedar shingles; they never hold paint. It is the insulation ... or lack of insulation. It is the direction the house faces. It was built on an old Indian burial ground." All I know is that it needs to be painted every three or four years, but I hold out for five.

So I am painting my house...  again - for the third time since I bought it twelve years ago. As I paint, I think. I think that I am glad I am not a full-time house painter. I have renewed respect for a friend of mine in New Hampshire who does this for a living. But mostly I think about spiritual things. That is the way my mind tilts, for better or worse.

Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape. Scrape off the layers of previous paintings. It is like an archeological dig, going down through fifty-three years of layers of brown, pink, green and white paint. Down as far as I can go, often to the wood itself. Sweat, sweat, sweat. Talk to people watching me sweat. Drink, drink, so I can sweat, sweat.

Then paint, paint, paint. (I refuse to do the other prep work any more, like washing, sanding and priming. It doesn't seem to make any difference; it will still need repainting in three years.) Paint, paint, paint. Up the ladder, down the ladder, move the ladder. Sweat, sweat, sweat. Ache, ache ache.

Think, think, think. I think life is like a house. It deteriorates over time no matter what you do. Women can put on make-up (It is like putting vinyl siding on a house.) But for men it is just hair loss, wrinkles, and aching joints. My life as a house. (Wasn't that a movie with Kevin Kline?)

Think, think, think. Think spiritual thoughts. There must be a spiritual lesson in this. Something about spiritual entropy and how it relates to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Everything is impermanent. Life is suffering. Putty covers a multitude of sins. There must be a spiritual point in all of this!

Think, think... I think these paint fumes are getting to me. I think that I could think much better if I were sitting on my porch drinking a glass of iced green tea. I think the next house I buy will have vinyl siding. I think I am VERY glad I am not a professional house-painter. I think I can find no profound spiritual lessons about house-painting. "Too bad," I think. It would have made a good blog.
Image is "Wall gazing" (Menpeki Daruma)

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