"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Thursday, October 07, 2004
ter-ror Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French terreur, from Latin terror, from terrEre to frighten; akin to Greek trein to be afraid, flee, tremein to tremble -- more at TREMBLE
1 : a state of intense fear
2 : the feeling you get up really really high on a ladder
I haven't been honest to God raw terrified at anything in a while. I guess I was due.
The Homeowner's Association (Is that capitalized? It shouldn't be, they don't deserve it) pretty much demanded that we paint our house immediately or else. Since the "or else" involved a rather substantial fine, we decided to paint. Also, since I'm currently unemployed temporarily, WE decided to paint it.
Last week we went to the hardware store and gathered all the paraphenalia we needed....brushes, rollers, paint, stirrers, drop cloths, a really cool gadget that lets you store paint inside the handle of the roller like a giant syringe (my idea, of course) and some other stuff. Properly armed, we set to last Sunday afternoon.
First thing we discovered was that we couldn't use rollers. Naturally, I find this out through attempting to use the cool gadget I bought, which is useless for painting our house. And now has paint inside it, so I can't return it. Oh well, it's still cool.
In the end, we had to attack the job with the basic brush and paintbucket. My wife took the lower story and I started on the upper story. The ladder we had was a bit shaky, at least with me on it (it never so much as quivered when I wasn't on it, I checked, so I think it was being purposely recalcitrant.) Even so, I managed to paint most of the second floor by climbing out of a second floor window to the roof of the front porch and bracing myself on a rope tied on one end to a weight machine and on the other to a toilet.
I figured if the rope was going to give me a problem, it would be a big problem. But, unlike the ladder, the rope behaved itself.
The whole time, I am dreading this one problem area. One side of our house the laundry room sticks out and there is a very steep roofline on it, maybe 50-60 degrees. The gable is over that, and almost impossible to access. At least for people like me.
The day was winding to a close and I was finishing up the last section I was going to do when my across the street neighbor, James, came walking over. James paints houses for a living.
"Here," he said. "You need a pot holder." He handed me a gadget that let me hang the paint bucket on the ladder rung.
"Thanks!" I said. "While you're here, let me ask you a question."
No, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I couldn't just sit there grinning, say thanks and stop. No, I had to ask a question.
"James, how would you attack that section way up there?"
He looked at it a moment. I was expecting him to recommend a scaffold or maybe rappelling gear, but he said "You just need a big ladder, lean it right up there, then you can stand on it and paint the eave."
He immediately headed for his truck, me tagging along. I was beginning to get a very bad feeling, maybe the sort of feeling a rock has when it begins to roll towards a cliff, or the feeling water has when it gets close to a waterfall.
"Actually, my wife said she wanted to knock off here in a couple of minutes, so now that I have the idea on how to do it..."
"This won't take you but a few minutes. Hang on a sec, this yellow ladder should do it." He pulled a huge yellow extension ladder off of his truck, hefted it singlehandedly (James is huge) and trotted off back towards my house.
He wedged the end of the ladder against our camper, pointed it at the top of the eaves, and hauled on the rope. The extension shot out into mid air, rattling out until James said "I think I can only get one more step out of this."
I looked at the roof, very very high up there. The end of the ladder appeared to be about a step's distance from the wall. James tugged, kachunk one more step, and the end of the ladder still hung there unsupported.
"I guess I need to get a forty foot ladder to do this, huh? I'll go rent one next week."
"I got one on the truck." He collapsed the ladder and we headed back to his truck. At this point, I was beginning to realise that some sort of aerial acrobatics were going to be pretty much inevitable. "Here," he said, pulling a monstrous ladder from his truck. "You get this end."
It took both of us to get the ladder into position. The end rested about three or four feet under the gable's top edge, with about six miles of ladder in between the gable and me. Well, it felt like six miles, anyway.
"All you have to do is climb up there, stand up and paint the first few boards."
"No problem. Let me know when you are done." He walked off.
Well, bravery is not being without fear, bravery is performing in spite of it. So I climbed.
The ladder's being tilted at a crazy angle didn't help one bit, and I was also trying to hold a sloshing paint bucket and paint brush in one hand while I climbed.
The wall. I was at the wall. I looked up, trying to get my bearings on the tip top of the eave. Holy cow, that was a long three feet! I had that fear taste in my mouth, that bare metal taste. Maybe it was fillings being ground to dust.
Deep breath. I need to take yet another step. Careful, balance, step, shake, done.
Another breath. Look up to get my bearings. Maybe...
I carefully hung the paintbucket. I manuevered myself to get steady on two legs and one arm. I reached up, stretched...
Still missing it by four inches!
[insert favorite cuss word here]!
I was going to need One. More. Step.
Careful, balance, step, shake, done. I was right up against the wall now. I braced myself again, dipped the brush, reached.....GOT IT!
"Oh my God, Cliff, what are you doing??!?" My wife had walked around the house and discovered me perched way, way up in the air.
"Painting the gable." I've learned over the years that when someone asks a question like she had, a simple answer works best. Of course, what she meant was "Oh No you're going to fall down and be killed and I'll be a widow", and what I meant was "Oh no I'm going to fall down and you'll be a widow please sue the homeowner's association." We understand each other that way.
She stood there, breathless, as I carefully worked myself down, one board after another. Then I climbed down, one heartstopping step after another. Finally I was down to mother Earth again.
Done. I had done it.
I used the ladder until it was too dark to paint. Now all of the most dangerous parts are done. I have to admit it, it does feel good to have faced the bear and eaten it.
Your skydiving reservations should be here soon...
Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway.
US movie actor & director (1907 - 1979)