Monday, August 27, 2012

The Quality of Breathing

Oakley smells like a montage. I drive with the windows down and let the pictures summoned by each breath float across the monitor in my mind like a screensaver. Climbing cemetery hill behind Grandpa and Grandma Ingram's house in Alpine, flying on the rope swing inside the massive barn at my cousin's dairy farm in Idaho, and childhood road trips through the breadbasket states, these are some of the most powerful memory images brought on by smelling Oakley.

We haven't lived in Oakley for very long, but new memories are forming every day. Watching Solomon play football, driving country roads with Hannah, watching Caleb walking with new friends after cross country practice, checking in on the new baby buffalo down the road, and lunch dates at the local burger joint with Elizabeth. These are some of my new favorites.

On most nights the mountain air cools to sweatshirt level. So long as a skunk doesn't spray a barking dog or get itself smashed on the highway, keeping the windows open makes for a pleasant night and comfortable sleeping. Burrowing under the blankets without the air conditioning blowing feels good on both the wallet and the skin.

A screen on our bedroom door that opens onto the back deck would be nice, but I am not very handy around the house. I can hang a painting, glue a broken something, or tighten a screw, but I really shouldn't be building anything. I have tools, but don't use them all that much. Our homes have always been better off before my "improvements." But a screen door should be a minor, even easy project, and the effort made would be validated by the reward, right?

In recent years I have become more handy around the soul. Opening myself up to change, I have made some major renovations on the floor plans and decor of my heart and mind. I have torn down walls to create a more open space, installed skylights that allow happy sunshine to brighten dark corners, and shored up what had long been a weak foundation. Retaining walls have been strengthened, and some temporary walls have been erected to protect the renovation in progress. Good memories have been framed and hung, broken relationships have been mended, and a few loose screws have been tightened (only a few, I don't want to be boring).

When it rains in Oakley, the air smells to me like Heaven's fabric softener.

The retractable screen door sounded like a good idea while standing in the door aisle at Home Depot. It took some time, effort, and ingenuity to build out the left side of the doorframe for an even fit. During this part of the project I ignored the memory of my father's voice mocking my hammer handling "You're supposed to hit the nail, not the wood, dummy!" The focus on ignoring the past made for a dimple-free finished look. (Thanks Dad, but not really.) The installation was going well, and I even used the hacksaw without cursing. The paper instructions were all but useless, so I watched the online installation video instead, and followed every step as best I could. The man in the video made it look so easy. His screen door slid back and forth with a smooth motion and a quiet zipping sound.

Mine didn't. The screen bunched up, refusing to retract into the housing. I tried over and over again, my frustration mounting with each attempt. The neighbor's aging mother may have learned a new word or two through her open window as I did my best to make the door cooperate. Elizabeth came out to offer support and provide another set of eyes to review the installation, but to no avail. I returned the door to Home Depot the next day, and to their credit they refunded my money without questioning my hammer handling.

An indefinite moratorium on home improvement projects is now in place.

My inner space is becoming quite luxurious. So much so that I enjoy spending time with myself. Of course, the work is far from done, and not all of the finishings are perfect, but it's coming along better than I had hoped. Hey self, look at me, you're a work in forward progress!

The bedroom door remains screen-free. I shouldn’t have rushed to install a screen door that you could probably find in Sky Mall magazine, but I was so eager to let in more air. Oh well, lesson learned. I think I’ll wait and have a professional install a screen door that functions the way it should.

One that keeps the bugs out, but lets in the air.

That sweet Oakley air.