Yesterday my lovely wife and I rebuilt the steps for our back deck. We constructed them just last fall, before the snow flew, but we knew as soon as we put them in place that something was amiss. We also knew that it would have to wait till spring, which was of small concern since we don’t use our back deck much in the winter. The weather, now warm, invited us to come and make good on our promise.
It was a splendid day for a constructing job. Neither of us are carpenters. My wife has the knack and I have the muscles but together we make only a portion of the real deal. We enjoy doing projects from time to time, and unlike some couples, work together rather well. Even so, despite having some degree of self-confidence, like most home owners and handy men and women, we do not do jobs often enough to remember how to do things so as to get it right the first time. We always get it done, it just happens by way of a circuitous route. The wrong sized screw, or a missing tool, or the wrong color of paint will send one or the other of us back to this store or that. Usually we book double the time it really ought to take, and it takes us double the time we booked. But yesterday was a good day to double your time outdoors. The sun shone, with that strange April light that comes of a sun higher in the sky, with no leaves to filter it and little green to soak it up when it hits the ground. It was a bright day, but not hot, and thus refreshing. So, off came the steps.
Because we were without steps for most of the afternoon, my wise wife figured out a way to hop up onto our deck using a deck chair. I tried the same, and to my chagrin, discovered that my weight upended a chair that quite happily held hers. No harm was done, but I had the happy chance to roll across the new patio we had installed (this by a professional!) last fall. It was this patio that occasioned the replacement of a very dilapidated stair. Soon railing will follow, and hopefully without any more falls to follow.
The day unfolded as it should, with some happy moments for self-reflection with coffee in hand as Mrs. J ran to and fro with hardware store tasks. It struck me that we both find a kind of satisfaction in knowing our blood (sometimes!), sweat (always), and tears (rarely) are important components that we have personally contributed to bits about our house. A kind of satisfaction comes in knowing that I am in what I now use. It isn’t just about pride, or economics, or learning something new – although some of all of these fit in the mix. It is more about a different kind of ownership, or perhaps stewardship – if you will.
Perhaps some of the joy I find in self-involving repair and renovation comes from it being a kind of practice of resistance against a plug and play world, replete with toss away conveniences, jobs and economies. It is also true, that a bit of work here and there, from time to time, allows us to “own” the home differently, with a bit of sweat equity that we gladly pay on fine spring day.