Musings

DENKENS

A sunny Sunday’s musings


Ich denke means “I think.”  There often is ample time to reflect on this project as Daniel and I toil day in day out amidst splashes of fall colors, to get the building completely enclosed and rain-proof. For instance, schlepping sheet after sheet of plywood up the staircase affords me the opportunity to focus on something other than my body pains. When the bungalow is water-tight (soon, we hope) we shall erect a wreath with colorful bands on top of the roof. This will be a day of celebration! The erection of such a wreath is a quaint European practice dating way back. German ancestors on my mother’s side were architects, engineers, and craftsmen (with a smattering of Burgermeisters and artists thrown into the mix). This wreath shall pay tribute to them.  Daniel’s design captures the American bungalow spirit at the turn of the 20th century, so it is fitting to pay tribute to that era.

Let me be frank – we are not going to make a bundle of money on this project. If our primary motivation had been to make a tidy return on our investment of money and time, we could have built a modern home with vinyl siding, an aluminum soffit, vinyl windows, hollow-core interior doors, carpeted floors and…uh…zero “zero clearance” features. We should have ordered factory-made walls and roof trusses, hired a crane, and erected the whole shebang in a week or two. That is not how we ply our design-craft-persons’ trade. The time we have spent installing rafter tails, “fly-rafters,” “look-outs”, blocking, steep roof lines, and many other “trifling” details can not be over-stated!

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That’s why an emphasis on craftsmanship is largely a thing of the past. With today’s market-driven emphasis, modern construction techniques find simpler ways to enclose a house. The result is homes that, to my eye, appear “boxed-in”, “stuffy”, uniform, and generally boring in appearance. As I look around me, most new construction creates “cookie-cutter” houses. Don’t get me wrong – today’s busy lifestyles place home maintenance chores on the bottom of the to-do list! I should know; my wife has a years-old list, and here I am, tapping on the computer keyboard…sigh.

So, yes, we ain’t gonna make a tidy sum on this project, but that is beside the point. The far more important thing for me is to showcase a product that is energy-tight, modern, and, uh, absolutely beautiful! By beautiful I don’t necessarily mean perfect symmetry. What I prefer are details that cause the observant eye to linger in appreciation. For instance, on the north side, two exposed roof decks don’t “mate”. The easy way out is to “box in” one of them. The much harder, and visually more appealing, option is to make the two decks meet each other at compound angles….and this takes times…lots of time! And when these beautiful details are taken care of, we are confident that our clients will find our prices “reasonable”. Still, some folks shake their heads.  Why would you think of building this home in a 30+ year old neighborhood, where surrounding homes are valued around 200k? This is an example of thinking inside the box, so to speak. What has not been factored into this way of thinking is the enchanting beauty and the value of mature pine trees that line the yard and make this lot unique! Additionally, the area’s premier park lies a stone’s throw away, and the University of Illinois, public schools, and food markets are all close at hand. Urbana is biker-friendly…and…uh…the friendly, slightly eccentric people of Urbana love their town! Need I say more?

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I slept 8.25 hours last night! I usually manage 6 after 10 hours on the job. They say that as we age we sleep less….so… how shall I explain the long sleep last night? Is the result of working around the house yesterday, refereeing soccer matches that morning, a long work week, or a little of all things? This much I know: Life is good! Daniel and I may take a long bike ride on this glorious Sunday. I feel so lucky to have Janet and Daniel involved in this project. I am increasingly aware that whereas my spirit is willing, the body signals, “nein”. In any event, it is not good for me to meddle in all of the details! I need to learn to “let go”; to graciously surrender to things of youth.

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

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