I forgot how much focus and and thought framing a house requires, but today reminded me. We’re building the walls for our little house in the meadow, which sounds simple. And maybe it is simple for someone who does it all the time. But for me it’s required a level of concentration as high as I can muster.
My world shrinks when I’m building something, and that is a requirement when framing a house. Today I was trying to factor in window sizes, and space for insulation, and structural requirements with our snow load, and basic carpentry skills that I haven’t exercised in 15 years, and aesthetics, and waste of materials, and overall symmetry, and counter height, and backsplash requirements, and the lifting capabilities of two 58-year-olds, and the timing of the delivery of the roof trusses, and so on and so on. All the while a combination of sunscreen and sweat ran into my eyes and my hands hurt from the work we did yesterday and my head throbbed because I had just bumped it. At that point my husband and co-builder Jim Ginn (JG) added another factor to the mix – how large the nailing strips are on the windows we just ordered, and my brain exploded. “I can’t think about that!” I huffed. “I can’t think about anything else right now!”
A few minutes later I calmed down enough to know that JG had raised an important point, and we had to consider the nailing strip sizes. And I admitted to myself that one particularly nasty part of the framing – the south window in the Great Room – which had given me no end of trouble the first time through, needs to be redone. And that actually made it all OK. Easy to factor in the nailing strips this second time through.
Finally quitting time rolled around, and I took a few minutes to sit in the shade and look at Facebook. I noticed a bunch of posts about world events I wasn’t even aware of. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the mayor of London in some sort of insult-a-thon. Muslim clerics in the UK refusing to say prayers for some dead terrorists. Identifying an Australian woman as one of the victims. And I realized I didn’t know what any of this was about. One Google search later I had some information about the latest attack in England, and all the information started making an unpleasant form of senseless sense.
And then I thought, “Here while people were being stabbed and run over and dying I’ve been fretting over a piece of wood that is twisted more than I would like. How can that be right?”
The obvious follow-up question is, “How can that be wrong?”
Times like this I remember one of my favorite stories about Jesus. His ministry was winding down, careening inexorably to its bloody end on a cross, and a woman anointed his feet with some costly perfume. His friends complained that it was a waste of money that could have gone to the poor, and a world-weary Jesus said, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26.10-11 NRSV)
My translation: “Chill out! There will always be pain and suffering and death to deal with. Live in this moment. Notice what is happening right around you, and appreciate it!”
A little later JG, our dog Otto, and I were sitting on the east side of our RV, in the evening shade, looking at our “lesser view.” One of the neighbor dogs, named Blue, trotted over for a visit, and Otto got all huffy and barky. Blue stopped abruptly and turned around, heading back home. Then Otto jumped in my lap and I enjoyed a rare few minutes of holding our aging pup, petting him while we both contemplated the world around us.
A world that shrank again. Small enough to exclude not only the latest atrocity in London but even the challenges of framing our house.
And I sighed in relief, and enjoyed the view.