“Gimme the vice grips. Pliers ain’t gonna work for this.”
“I need the three-eighths bit, the hammer and a Phillips.”
“We can frame this thing on the ground, then screw it in place.”
“It’s five and seven sixteenths, like I said. I measured twice.”
The day of the Solstice dawned windless and clear. The moon, even through its partly lidded eye, cast a bright square through the skylight before making its sleepy way west in the paling sky. Tiny Mercury winked out a little before 6 am. It was a calm and quiet start to the third season of the year.
That peaceful beginning is hard to recall right now. As I write, generators (two of them) buzz and growl ferociously on and off. Compressors spit angrily, releasing their pent-up tension. Nail guns slap rhythmic rim shots that echo off the face of the houses across the street; a syncopated beat from the slight delay of their bounced-back sound waves. On the lawn, the portable DeWalt rips through plywood like an angry seamstress tearing out the hem of a poorly sewn dress, while inside a battery-powered jig saw chatters through sheetrock, opening up space for a new furnace duct. It is Grand Central Station inside and out the day I get a new roof and air conditioning the same day!
Despite the noise and mounting detritus, there’s something comforting about being in the presence of skilled workmen, doing well what they know how to do. I’m feeling taken care of by these strangers who scramble over and through the house, calling back and forth in their ritualized language, improving and customizing my world with their specialized tools.
I spent 30 years of my life as a craftsperson myself and appreciate deeply the hand-made thing. Whether it’s a cup that sits cleanly in the palm, a teapot spout that doesn’t drip, or a roof that shelters securely from the storm, there is great satisfaction in living with things that serve well their intended purpose.
When the dust clears, the equipment is packed away in the workmens’ vans and the house is quiet again, I will be left with a new soffit to paint and a small pile of sawdust to add to the compost. There will be the odd roofing nail to fish out of the garden next spring, I’m sure. But I’ll also be the beneficiary of a little thrill each time I push the button to turn the air conditioning on, pull up to the house with the warm autumn tones of its new sheltering crown.