painted barns.

Two weeks ago a stranger showed up on my porch. The dog barked and so I peeked out the window.
He said he was from Wisconsin and he’d painted these barns before, once thirty years ago and then again, fifteen years ago. He leaned on the deck railing and spat into the mulch. He also had a daughter named Pearl, so we bobbed our heads in satisfaction and said things like, “how about that.”

Post-pressure wash, ready to paint.
Ready for her new coat.

It just happened we’d been talking about barn painting without the smallest clue of where to start, so we agreed he ought to paint them.
It was a nippy, sunny day and the kids were on Easter break from school.
Luke sidled up to Sam, the painter, and mused, “I bet painting is one of those jobs where it starts out exciting and then after awhile you’re tired of it.”
Sam agreed.

I still can’t believe how lucky we are to be here, painting old barns on nippy days, chatting with salt of the earth folk who stare at me bewildered when I mention our predicament of last year.
“You mean they won’t let kids back in school unless they’re vaccinated or wear masks? Even now?”
I’ve been here ten months and it’s even getting hard for me to believe how locked down it was there. They (government? those in control? talking heads?) scared a bunch of people into never feeling safe ever again, never trusting even their own instinct to breathe fresh air when they’re out walking solo on the sidewalk. They encouraged rage and indignation, stirring up deep hate that bubbled into a culture of mistrust and calculated self-preservation.

I got tired of trying to explain it to my kids, let alone live it.

One baseball mom furrowed her brow and said, “Really? Don’t they know Covid is just the flu?” I didn’t correct her because I don’t think she’s completely wrong, but also because she has a right to think whatever she thinks. I appreciate the fortitude our farming neighbors showed–just because the world slows to a crawl doesn’t mean the rest of us get to.
Just because there’s sickness doesn’t mean we ought to lay down and die. No one in the Ozarks is casting a judgy frown at more than six children on a playground or rolling up their car windows to avoid filth-breathing strangers in the parking lot.
Life happens as a forward motion. It’s very risky. I enjoy it.

Last year at this very moment we were at the breaking point of living in Denver, weary from everything: our across-the-street neighbor who might at any time put a bullet in our windows (it felt like that after calling the cops on him the second time), no hope for getting back to school or being with friends, the weirdest church situation we’d ever been part of, and Joe driving off to work, managing people’s lives–everyone’s life it felt but our own.

I returned to the city from an Easter visit out east to see my parents and we listed our house almost immediately. Within two weeks we were starting to worry about not knowing what would happen to us. We hadn’t planned the future, we just knew we had to pivot in another direction. We didn’t even consider moving back to be near family.
If I keep retelling the same old story it’s because it is astounding.

Our first tulips opened around April 14th, the perfect Easter surprise. Mostly pink and red and purple–we are excited to see the fluffy yellow and multi-hued ones open within a couple days. Gretty and I spent our rainy Easter spring break delivering cookies and tulips (what the dog hasn’t eaten) to the neighbors. Jube and I played music at a dear 76-year-old friend’s birthday party. Foy’s allergies are clearing up so I’m hoping we’re having a spell from the worst of the pollen and weeds.

We gave Jubie’s old cello (definitely one of the only material things I’ve felt attachment toward, only because it feels like the end of an era) and Lu’s violin (less attachment–he’s outgrown it by three years, a 1/4-size) to a local luthier friend. In return, Brother Jerry gave us an old fiddle from the 1850s or prior that he retrofitted with a new bridge and tuners. It’s so special. (I’ll post a video of it up close.)
Bro Jerry said he was able to date it back to at least the 1850s, if not earlier, because the neck is built onto the back. In Germany, this is how they assembled violins instead of building them inside a mold. A fellow came into his shop years ago and said, “What’ll you give me for this old thing?” Jerry gave him fifty bucks.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s