Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I learned from Michelangelo about too many projects

The artist who created this beautiful chair personalized it with one of my favorite quotes. 

When I was thirty my goals seemed just out of reach and I had the energy to keep after them. I wanted to make my 1900 Victorian home as lovely as a decorator magazine. But we were short on cash, so I smashed the cracked and bulging plaster walls, removing the debris in five gallon buckets. Then I had rooms full of exposed studs and dangling strands of horsehair because we didn't have the know-how to put up drywall. 

Michel A. would have been horrified. 

A gracious friend remedied the pitiful state of our walls. I was a maniac unleashed. We painted, stripped woodwork. Then I made curtains for every window and comforters for every bed. I embroidered table cloths, made my kids clothes 'cause I thought I could do it cheaper than buying them. In the spring I tore up the backyard and laid the sod which I scrounged from the big Home and Garden show. About a third of it grew, leaving the rest of the yard with strips of dead grass. It looked a like bad hair cut.

Now it would have horrified Olmstead. (follow the link for info)

In my forties I wised up a little and tackled smaller projects.  But in my heart the desires grew. Itching for a big garden we moved to North Carolina. Our little farm house had two acres. In my imagination they were English cottage gardens and a year's worth of vegetables. 

The decade of my fifties was spent turning the baseball-field yard into one sculpted garden after another. Rain made flowers and vegetables grow; I was in heaven! By the time we had the vegetable garden plowed, it was out of hand. I had more ground than I could keep groomed. I mulched. I weeded. I sprayed. Gangs of weeds mobbed the gardens. I needed riot control! 

If only I had more time, I thought. Surely when I retired every flower border would be lush and the vegetables would stand in weedless rows.

It was a fallacy. Of course other interests begged for time.

 This spring we returned from a trip to overgrown asparagus, the strawberry bed exploding with fruit, weedy empty beds that would have to be prepared for beans and tomatoes within a couple of weeks,  and I realized I still wasn't going to be able to get it all done. The balance tipped. I wanted to actually keep up with my projects, maybe even take a break once in awhile and wander around the yard just enjoying it. Perhaps read a book in my swing under the chestnut tree without the timer being set to move me onto the next task. 

I wish I could talk to Michelangelo. Did he rue the images of paintings and sculptures he couldn't tackle?  Did he want to just lay down on the floor of the Sistine Chapel and savor the satisfaction of the finished dome, admire his design and execution before he jumped up and headed off to work on the sculpture of Moses? 

The chair's quote mocks me now. Why did I desire to do more and more? Is there greater satisfaction in three hurried projects than two leisurely ones?  Did I imagine I was earning  reward points in life for being busier than folks who never make a list?

 Or maybe I was too focused on my desires. I should have followed more of Michelangelo's example. He knew to talk to the Lord about his desires.  I should have been checking my lists with The Boss.

Shoot, maybe I should just throw out that big box of photos now, save myself the delusion that I'll get them turned into mediocre scrapbooks. And that piece of wood that's probably warped while it waits for me to get started on the barn quilt. Then there are the fabric scraps I've been saving to weave a rug for which I don't have a loom.

At the very least I need to rewrite the quote. "Lord, grant that I might accomplish exactly what You desire."

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