Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Up On The Roof, and Thinking

Tonight, instead of drawing, I spent the sunny evening up on the roof of my new shop, installing roofing, dropping tools, trying to stay balanced though tired with a few beers, and Scotch whiskey, and the Ipod blaring. Its my roof, I try to be careful. And the sun set down and raked across the plywood, and the west sky got dusty blue with a few spirally clouds reaching out, and I hammered and tacked and cut and measured, and thought, what's this all for? I guess, I thought, if i build something, it will survive me much longer than a drawing or painting, and some future me, some fellow mowing this yard, will say, well, i am glad this got built right, or, appreciate what we don't usually appreciate, that a building involves a person too, or many people, and that each involved someone on the roof at the end of the day, pounding something with a hammer.

In my experience, there are two great things where I feel at home, and one is sawing and hammering, and the other is painting and drawing. One is sort of masculine, one is sort of feminine, though i feel neither in doing either. And there's a third, which is sitting with my back to a pillow, or a tree, with a book, which i inevitably fall asleep over, either on a warm afternoon, or with blankets pile up. So that's three things. I don't feel at home in the same way dancing, or talking to people, or working, or shopping, or eating, or talking on the phone, or much of anything else, not that they don't have their pleasures, and possibilities, but they don't have that core wafting of rightness, that seems like one was wired for. I wouldn't do either for a living. I've spent years as a carpenter, but when its work, there's another part of your brain that takes over, and a pervading tiredness day after day. OK when i was 30, but it would kill me at 50. Or 51, whatever it is I am.

In carpentry you have your thoughts, and you have to plan ahead, and think clearly, and you smack your thumb, and cut a finger or something, and bump your head, and it is sort of dangerous, and its all about interacting with the tools and materials, and constructing something out of something else. Well, that's just the same with painting, minus the wounds, but plus the messiness, which always accompanies the sort of painting i do. No gloves, no apron, hands in the paint, and trying to get it so ones' head is as swift as one's hands, and they work together, more or less.

In both cases, something gets made. Something sits there when one is done, and will likely survive you. A painting, i suppose, inevitably gets dumped by a distant relative that is cleaning out your studio and who doesn't see the thread of thought and feeling that went into it all. I've dumped a few sketch books of dead people before, or tore out the pages to make it blank. And it isn't as if the world isn't full of artists, with studios chock full of work. So i am not too expectant of a legacy here, being far down on the food chain.

But houses, and buildings, and anything one builds that involves concrete, will stick around awhile. Someone, long after i am dead, will walk around the house that i sweated over, both in figuring out how to make it feel a certain way, and in building every inch of it. And they might keep it that way, or muck with it, as i have mucked with plenty of houses. But the house survives, and 100 years from now, barring disaster, at least a disaster that involves houses, will survive. And so, one's legacy survives, however unremembered.

And maybe, i have another house in me. Certainly my father did, who built til he was 70, I think. He built to make money, and I haven't figured that part out.

Being up on the roof today i thought, this is fun, if i would just stop dropping things and swearing and worrying about the rain coming in, but it isnt as if i am 20 or 30, I ache up here, I stumble, I cant lift things like i did, and I wonder if i really can do this much longer.

Well, one can paint til one can't see any more, so i guess that's the alternate plan.