Rooster herding & basket weaving since 2009
Over the period of the last six days I have decided that one of the most torturous ways to die would be getting buried alive under a massive mountain of paint chips. There you would be, gasping for breath beneath Ravenous Red and Tatami Tan and Samovar Silver, and instead of having the expected pictures of your life flash before your eyes—happy memories of graduations and births and anniversaries—you would be stuck with All The Walls That Should Have Been Painted Differently.
Kitchens that came out too yellow, kids rooms that looked like literal circuses, the bedroom you thought would be ‘modern’ in red but ended up looking like the Valentine’s Day aisle at Walgreens—too in your face and maybe even a little… sigh… cheap.
We recently embarked on the mission of choosing some new paint colors for our house. When the house was built I thought I was choosing beige for the living room walls but I sort of, kind of, maybe accidentally ended up with a beige that has very strong undertones of green. And by ‘very strong’ I mean as strong as a shark that could pull you to the depths of the ocean and thrash you around for hours subliminally communicating things like ‘Do you see that ocean floor? Is it beige or green?’ And if you don’t correctly identify green then the shark eats your liver.
What’s most mystifying about that color choice for the living room is that the paint name ‘Macadamia’ didn’t tip me off to the fact that green might be swirling around somewhere in that paint can.
But it’s a new day and we have new paint colors and even though most of the last week has been a mind-numbing exercise in communication and perseverance I think we have finally emerged intact from the 7 stages one must survive when picking colors for the walls of your home.
1. Excitement. Oh my gawd, isn’t this exciting? We can paint our house any colors we want and make it so beautiful and wonderful and finally all those shitty reality TV shows I watch about decorating will go to good use.
2. Denial. Does my spouse/partner really have such shitty taste? I know there are marriage counselors out there… but this isn’t a problem we both have, so what we really need is just a counselor for his/her color blindness. He/she can go alone to the appointments and work through the issues and when he/she returns all will be well and my colors will win and maybe if I am really lucky the color blindness counselor will be located near a good Chinese takeout place so that no one has to cook dinner. Fried Rice for everybody!
3. Resignation. All the colors I thought were beautiful yesterday now look like total shit in morning light, and maybe my spouse/partner was sort of right when he/she said that my affection for shades of orange was better fit to a Navajo accent pillow than on every wall of our bedroom.
4. Depression. Day two of all colors looking horrible. Day two can involve up to three trips to the paint store for more samples—at which point the paint guys begin referring to you by your first name and also asking how the kids are doing, and whether or not they should bring side items when they come over for Thanksgiving. You tell them no, don’t worry about mashed potatoes, they’re family and they’ll be taken care of.
5. Soul Searching. Do you even know what colors you truly like? Do you need an interior designer to help? Now. Interior designers are fabulous and I love working with them but I do not believe in having them come in mid-project to save your ass. If you are riding a bicycle for the first time and you feel it’s not working out do you call your freaking Mom to come hold the back of the seat to make sure you don’t fall? No. Not unless you want to have your mom push you to school for the rest of your life. Do you want your mom going with you on vacation to California and giving your beach cruiser a steady hand? How are you ever going to learn that you can decorate a house if you always have Miss Interior Decorating degree guiding you to the damask ‘everyone wants’ and lamps ‘that are a steal’ but sort of look like they came from a 17th century Chinese temple. Find your own antique junk. Make some mistakes. Fall off your bike. Don’t let anyone else pretend she can dig in your soul and find out what colors are bubbling there.
6. Reinvigorated Hope. Yes. You can do this. You have the eye of a tiger. And you are ready to pounce on those paint chips.
7. Exhaustion Tinged with Satisfaction. At the end of the paint-selection process you are worn the hell out, but that’s OK. Now you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that even if you have completely screwed up the colors—you screwed them up with every ounce of your being, your eyes wide open, and the best of possible intentions. Maybe you will have to live with green in your living room for three years…. but you know what? You will live. And you might even live happily. The shitty reality TV shows about decorating and design might tell you that a perfectly decorated life = happiness, but you live in the real world, where not having the proper shade of yellow or the ‘most sought after’ damask isn’t a failure—it’s just part of being human.
When you can look at colors and feel the detached relief that comes with knowing nothing in this life is permanent, that’s when you can truly pat yourself on the back for being done with the paint-picking colors. .When we were finally finished I sat down on our sofa and gave the Macadamia in the living room a good, hard look. After all, it was time to say goodbye. Those walls have been painted that color through some awesome moments of our lives… and the color has been the humor that got us through some less-than-awesome ones. It’s not beautiful or what you would find on TV and maybe that’s what has made it so real….in some lights surprising, and as time has gone on familiar and comforting.
Am I being too kind to ole Macadamia? Maybe, but maybe not. After all, even the nuts among us deserve some love. And probably I am also hovering in the 8th stage of color picking. A lesser-known stage, it only effects people most traumatized by the color-picking process. The stage is called Pollyanna. When suddenly everywhere you look in the world is full of joy and wonder because for the first time in a week you can look at something besides paint chips. Finally. It’s tomorrow. And outside these walls the sun has come out.
We spent last week in California. Not as a family, but as a couple. Just the two of us walking on city streets and driving the coast line and even spending a night in Big Sur simply because we decided that we wanted to…because we had time to… because there were no travel requirements like ‘must have access to a gas station open all hours of the night so we can buy milk if we need to.’
A week was a long time to be away from home, but I needed it. Why is getting on a plane such an effective way for me to clear my head? I don’t know. I’ve tried to come up with a good answer to that question and have even tried to figure out alternative methods (because once you have kids, planes aren’t quite as accessible as they used to be) but those personal inquiries have not been successful and when I moved out here to the country I decided to stop trying to resist the way I am wired…. sometimes you just need to go. And I know I’m not alone. I see the rest of you out there in the airport lobbies, on the planes, waiting at baggage claim with barely contained glee even though you are in the middle of uncomfortable transit… you are out, for just a time, for just enough time to get the neurons firing in what feels like a proper sequence once again.
But the thing I have found about living in the country is that just when you think you are 100% revved up to the max and ready to go forward, you get a curve ball that slams you in the gut. The day after California I woke up refreshed, recharged, and totally focused. I walked out of our bedroom and into my study to get to work and when I moved a blanket from my favorite chair I saw the weirdest little brown pellets sprinkled all over the chair. My brain wasn’t totally functioning yet so instead of immediately realizing what had happened I lifted up the cushion to investigate further and there it was, a gnawed-up hole where two little mouse teeth had been…. stuffing yanked out where a little mouse body had been…. more brown pellets where a little mouse butt had been.
Of course the mouse was long gone, probably smart enough to know when a vacation was over. And upon my discovery, I was too. Instead of attacking my work with gusto I spent the next hour scouring the house for any other hideouts our new resident had dug out, piling all sheets and blankets the mouse might have touched into a laundry pile so I could wash them, and also cussing any and everything I could think of. It was like, totally California man, and totally zen.
We have never had a mouse before and I know it’s because we have construction going on in the back of our house. The rational part of my brain knows it probably won’t be endemic and that I don’t need to completely freak out. But the part of me that had just gotten done with time in San Francisco and Los Angeles (cities that aren’t mouse or rat-free, but seem that way when you are just coasting through for a few days) was just totally pissed off that the curve ball was a country mouse, lobbed right into my belly. (How totally sans sophistication, she thinks, as she stands in her Target pajamas in the middle of her study.)
Now we’re living with mouse traps set around our house but of course this country mouse isn’t biting. He or she is no fool – she knows a good deal when she gets one. Why would you leave such a comfortable abode—a place nestled in green pastures, under blue skies with relatively little interference from the outside world—for a metal box trap that has tantalizing, fancy foods displayed inside where you will undoubtedly run yourself in ragged circles until you die?
Why indeed, country mouse? Why indeed.
Is there anything better than the sound of rain on a window? The tip-tip-tap that makes you want to curl up on your sofa and turn the world off for a while?
We have waited years—literally—for that tip-tip-tap on our windows. The drought in Texas made national news two summers ago because of the fires that sparked due to so much dry weather. But the drought has been much larger and longer than that one (horrible) set of events that got publicity.
The last big rain was when my son was three months old. I have pictures of us standing on the bank of the river that runs through the ranch with him pressed into the baby carrier against Andrew’s chest while the rain turned the river into a raging, fast-moving ride. Neither Andrew, nor I, nor anyone who lives in this area thought that would be the last big rain we would see for three years. We have had small showers here and there (though sometimes with months in between) but never enough to make a substantial difference for the fields and livestock and crops that most people around us depend on for a livelihood.
All of this changed last night. The rain started at sundown and when I went to bed I asked Andrew how long he thought it would last and he said he didn’t want to jinx it by answering that question. When I woke up at two in the morning it was still coming down…. and it wasn’t just a tip-tip-tap on the window but a stronger, louder, pounding on the roofs while the wind whipped water against our windows and walls.
To most people it would have been just another thunderstorm, but to me it sounded like heaven. I’m tired of brown grass and sprinklers and low tanks for the cattle. I’m tired of that feeling of dry air that builds and builds while everyone sits around and waits for (what starts to feel like) a miracle. When we woke up this morning we found out we got 8 inches in the night, and that actually is nothing short of a miracle.
It’s supposed to rain on and off all day. Partly because I was awake listening to the rain for a couple hours last night and partly because the tip-tip-tap is a great reason to dive under a blanket with a tub of nutella and a good book, I’m planning a deliciously lazy day.
A girl has to take these opportunities when they are offered to her. Especially in these parts—you never know when the thunder is going to roll in your favor, and give you the chance to turn off the world for a while.