Saturday, May 03, 2008

deconstruction 102 (The Writer’s Shed Project, part 7)

How come the hazards of life are so often... beautiful?

It was a miserable beginning to a Saturday. Cold. Drizzly. Cold, really, barely above winter.

The farmers market? We went searching for morels (it’s the season!), found none, talked a little to the cheesemaker, admired the flats of lettuce and left.

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Somewhat hurried this morning. The old shed was coming down and Ed and I wanted to be there. For the glory of it all. And the fire.

You would probably guess that Ed doesn’t like to burn dead wood. He doesn’t even like sawing it off. When I suggest we prune, he talks endlessly about the integrity of it all – dead branches, old stumps, old canes: he’ll reluctantly clip, cut and saw if I can prove (with links to websites) it’ll encourage new growth. And still, he doesn't really believe it.

Once sawed off, old branches are heaped in an infinitely large compost heap. The stack of old branches is so large that I ask Ed if it will ever turn back into soil. It’s pointless though. He’ll answer with a story about a frog he spotted there the other day. I’ll say that was accidental, but he’ll be convinced there’s a colony of frogs somewhere there and so the stack will remain untouched.

But when you move into a property with several old sheds full of old life, there’s a lot of stuff that can only be disposed of through burning. Rotten boards and doors, frames, beams – things that no one can use and cannot be composted. And so once every few years he burns the stuff.

One phone call to the fire department and we’re ready.

And it is a beautiful, awe inspiring, monstrously huge, (and therefore threatening) fire!

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The old shed family -- the people who bought the wood and agreed to take the structure down -- arrives in stages. Grandpa, grandma, daughter, son in law, grandkid. And dog.

They get to it. Slowly, methodically. In the cold, damp weather.

Grandpa, a once farmer, tells us how much he loves to work with this wood.
And do what with it?
Oh, for example, make birdhouses. I sit at the lake, watch the birds... I'm a nature guy. And I'm just so happy with my projects!
We do a lot of fishing there, by the lake, his grandson tells me.

I have often thought that one of the best things you can do for your family is learn to be happy. Because they'll come to you then, they'll do projects and take down barns with you and eat lunch out of the truck. And happiness is contagious.

The grandson works the ax on an old wooden post. Good exercise – his mom smiles. The dad is up on the roof now. Be careful dad! -- the kid shouts. But within minutes he, too, is up there. Dad has tested it. They work together prying off the steel sheets.

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Underneath, there’s rolled roofing. That’s unfortunate. Too many rusty nails. All the roof boards have to be burnt. The fire is stoked again.

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But there are treasures as well in the old shed. For example this guy. Asleep still? Bats, like me, don’t like the cold.

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By four, the deconstructing family is winding down.

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They want to finish tomorrow. Of course. We're fine with that.

I comment to Ed – I can’t believe they paid you to do this.

But then, I listen to the grandfather talk about his birdhouse, the daughter telling me how beautiful the old door is with its old hinges, I watch the grandson hack away at an old rotten post...

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...and it all makes sense, doesn’t it? Who isn’t happy after this day?