I've been doing a lot of home improvement stuff, lately, in preparation for (God willing) selling our house and buying another, and I've discovered that I really enjoy this kind of work, though it has required me to awaken muscle groups that had been happily asleep, and boy are they grumpy. It is extremely fulfilling work, though... I can compare it to those days long ago when I lived with my folks on a small lake in Lawrence County, Arkansas, where we had a good sized garden.
That is, my folks had a good sized garden. If it had been up to us kids, the ground would have remained blissfully undisturbed, the red clay baking into something like a concrete slab during the summer months and, in the rainy season, turning into a slurry of sticky, red gumbo.
But my folks (especially my Dad) took pains not only to break the ground, but to fold into it all manner of loamy, organic refuse... sawdust from a local sawmill, moldy hay, horse manure... all of which I and my brother had the privilege of hauling and shoveling.
Then came hours of walking behind a roto-tiller, and finally planting, watering, weeding, hoeing... how I loathed it all. I grumbled and fumed and thought about all the productive hanging-out time I was missing. I had just bought Steely Dan's new album, Aja, and I had plans to spend precious hours laying in bed with my headphones on. How did they not get that?
And yet, at the end of a day of gardening, even for me (too cool to enjoy gardening) there was a deep and undeniable satisfaction in looking back at the tilled earth, the planted rows, the green and growing things. Then there were the meals we made off that little patch of ground... new potatoes, fresh green beans, sweet peas, asparagus, corn on the cob, tomatoes, peppers... Even for a classy sophisticate like me (you must read that last line in Jethro Bodine's voice) it was pretty heavenly stuff. It was't just the fact that it tasted great, either... it was this idea of living off our own land and the work of our hands.
Hunger is the best spice, as they say, and coming in from a day of garden work to a plate of something picked an hour ago and cooked five minutes ago is one of the best things there is.
I find fixing up our house deeply gratifying in the same way. It's one of those things that humans were made to do, and from which we seem made to draw satisfaction. Allow me to wildly speculate that if we all spent more time gardening and fixing up our homes instead of watching TV or surfing the web, we would be immeasurably happier and better off.
Home improvement is fast becoming a new hobby for me, rather than merely another chore. I can hardly wait to get started on our new place (wherever that will be).
Excuse me, I have wallpaper to peel.