In recent weeks, I’ve been feeling like the work in our new house has been going so very slow. We are working our way from the outside in, getting the things that require pleasant weather to be done first. So we’re repairing our front stoop and walkway and putting in a patio in the space between our garage and our house. I’m impatient to see all my romantic visions come to fruition. I want to see my cutting garden in full bloom, our kitchen garden groaning with produce, the raised bed built for our herb garden, and our outdoor dining room ready for me to set the table. I want the garage scraped and painted, the back porch scraped and painted too, and the endless weeds and invasive plants we’ve found to go away. Opposed to using any pesticides at all, figuring out eco-friendly ways to solve these problems takes research and is a more time-consuming process.
There always seems to be something that interrupts the flow; life things. Funerals and wakes, Japanese Knotweed and other invasive plants that seem to love our property, tropical storms that require the slope at the edge of the yard to be shored up. There are good things too; a visit to the farm my godson works on, a trip to Legoland with my daughter and granddaughter, walks to the Farmer’s Market, visits to my mom, seeing other family members, a drive to a farm to pick blueberries and fill a bucket with summer flowers of every shape and hue.
So we got a little momentum going and found a wonderful mason to work on the front. The original plan we had in mind; a humble brick and concrete design made lovely through half-moon shaped stairs had to be scrapped for a variety of reasons including dealing with the arduous process of getting a permit because we were changing the structure and our idea would cost three times more than what we ended up with. Our mason suggested an alternative that referenced the original design showing his creativity and pragmatic nature, allowing us to remain within the parameters of what is not an unlimited budget given all the things we want to do. Without getting into details, the design change threw me off base. I was in a hurry to re-adjust so the work could proceed and I made a choice of paving stone that now I’m not happy with. Calvin, however, loves it, so I have the comfort of that at least. Our original plan had been to put in the patio base for the outdoor dining area ourselves, all the materials ordered, delivered, and sitting in our driveway waiting for us to start. During the work on the front, we decided in an urge to hurry things up to ask our mason to do that too, which he did; beautifully and economically. In our rush to finish the front and check one completed project off our list, we ordered wrought-iron railings that we later found out were not up to code and didn’t fit the space we needed it to (and by the way not returnable). So we did what we should have done if we weren’t in such a hurry and had someone who knew what they were doing to come and figure out what we needed. We are complete novices despite our age when it comes to homeownership, what permits are needed for what, and how to interpret our city’s building code.
The moral of the story, of course, is that trying to do things too fast causes mistakes to happen, some of which end up costing you in the end. I’ve been wondering why this sudden urge to get it done has overtaken me when before I was feeling so content to just let it evolve and happen slowly and organically, as we had planned. In the last month, I’ve been to a few funerals and I think that’s creating some underlying sense of urgency. All the sadness of the world and national political events, the resurgence of the Great Interrupter, the extreme weather and fires reminding us of climate change, and the risk to human life have overwhelmed me and reminded me of the fragility of life. I’ve not wanted to dress up or taking photos of myself to post on social media, focusing much of my attention on the house and writing. While these events are urgent, the biggest thing I learned during the quarantine was that living slowly and in the moment is the best and only way to access the simple pleasures and joy life brings alongside sadness and loss. Death is a part of life as much as being born is. When it decides to come is not really in our control so trying to cram as much living in simply because you are old is not a justifiable reason to do so and rather futile at that. Rushing to be productive, profitable, and politically popular without thought or care is what has created so many of these problems that so trouble me now. It is abundantly clear that rushing is no longer an option for how I want to live my life. So I had a bit of falling off the “slow” wagon but now I’m ready to jump back on and forgiving myself for making mistakes because they reminded me of something I needed to know.
So I’m going to hurry up and slow down; feel the soil and the texture of the plants as my fingers pull those pesky weeds, take my time to arrange some flowers, howl at the moon, cook a slow simmering meal and give Calvin a kiss when he comes in the door tonight instead of asking him about how many things he checked off our to-do list or rush to tell him about what I checked off mine.
What “haste makes waste” lessons have you learned?