I’m up to my ears and out of my comfort zone. I’m working with Colorado Art Ranch to get our guest cottage and Richard’s shop ready for the Terraphilia Artist/Writer Residency program beginning later this year.
Working with Art Ranch isn’t outside my comfort zone; it’s the remodeling and renovation part of the “getting ready.” Design of built spaces was Richard’s thing. I paid bills, kept him semi-organized, chose colors and dreamed landscaping. I don’t have the “object manipulation gene” he and Molly share that allows them to see intuitively how physical objects and buildings work.
The bigger project–and scarier to me–is finishing the renovation of Richard’s historic brick shop building, built in 1902 as a millwork shop for a long-defunct lumber company. It had been essentially abandoned for several decades before we bought it in 1997.
Richard spent about ten years (in between building our house next door) getting its structure in good shape, but never finished. Still to come: installing a ceiling (did I mention the building is 1,700 square feet, and the ceiling is two stories high at the center beam of the timber frame?), some rewiring (ditto the above) and repairing the aging plumbing.
Before we can even start on the renovation (which will be done mostly by volunteers, and will likely use up my small hoard of shop-repair cash), there’s a LOT of cleaning and organizing to do. My love was a pack rat. He collected old industrial metal and gears for sculptures, saved scraps of wood to use for levers and fulcrums and chocks in moving boulders, and seemingly hoarded every piece of paper that came across his desk in the almost-three decades I knew him.
“Our” Molly and her sweetie Mark Allen tackled the six four-drawer filing cabinets last fall, hauling 65 pounds of paper to a shredder. That cleared two file cabinets. Then there’s his office, and the boxes and boxes of books. I’ve been going through shelves and drawers and cabinets, all coated with years of dust, sorting out what can be saved from what can be recycled and what is simply trash. That’s where the stories of the title come in.
Tucked into every pile and file, whether it’s outdated supply catalogs or receipts, are mementos he saved: love notes I wrote, sketches for sculptures, jottings of favorite quotes, cards from Molly, and in one case, a whole folder of precise pen-and-ink botanical illustrations I sketched for my newspaper columns thirty years ago, and had completely forgotten. (I think he was saving them to frame… someday.)
I lifted each sketch, shaking off the dust, and my hands remembered the feel of the old rapiograph ink pens with their interchangeable points that always got clogged. Feeling the paper, seeing the detailed shading, I recaptured a forgotten part of me. I wouldn’t say I had ever been an artist, but I used to draw plants. That’s a story about myself I didn’t remember.
The sorting-through is slow work. And hard on my tender heart. When I come to things like the shirt-pocked-sized notebook containing the sketch for a Craftsman-style pergola and bridge he planned to build in our front yard, I dust them off, read them, and then must wipe my tears and blow my nose before continuing on.
I miss my love–his brilliant mind, his soaring creativity, the inborn affection for this numinous Earth that showed in all his work, and most of all, his company. I will always miss him. And because he was a packrat, I have a growing stash of poignant–and dusty–treasures to remind me of stories I have yet to write about our journey through this life, together and separately.