A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, January 09, 2006


plastering a ceiling
Making good progress on the resolutions so far this year. Ears are pierced, for one thing. That was not terribly difficult--$12.98 at the mall for studs with free piercing included--so why not get it out of the way?

Other resolutions are more expensive and problematic. "Fixing the hallway/stairwell" is a carryover from last year, something I don't know how to do, and was having difficulty finding someone competent to do for me. My beautiful floating staircase had been damaged when the kids helping me move had gotten the king-size mattress wedged partway up. A crack had turned into a hole, ominously close to the plaster ceiling medallion. For the last eighteen months, I have been using the back staircase almost exclusively, afraid to place any undue stress on the area, and wincing every time my sons and their friends thundered up and down.

Wednesday morning, I was woken up by a call from my neighbor Ken. Could he come over and bring buckets, compound, ladder, and so on for fixing the stairwell? I prayed I wasn't dreaming. This project had been in the talking stage for a year and a half. Not only had he volunteered to do it, but he seemed to know what it entailed, and wouldn't hear of payment. My kind of offer, broke as I am! On the down side, he kept putting it off. The hours he spent in my kitchen over coffee, talking about his many projects--making a movie, starting a non-profit, running for office--were enough to rebuild the entire house. So I didn't dare hope it was finally getting underway.

But sure enough, a few minutes later he was at the door with a shitload of stuff. And that night he was back at 9:30 to start. He worked till 4 a.m., with only a fifteen-minute break for coffee, prepping the area, cleaning it out, wetting it down, and keying in Portland cement mixed with some secret ingredient. He also fixed an ugly crack that had been there when I moved in, and two holes left from an incident involving kicking a space heater downstairs (culprit to be left unnamed). The next night he was back for another four hours of extremely careful labor, and on Friday night he put a skim coat of plaster over the cement. So maybe one more visit to do the final final coat, and it'll be my turn.

I want to sand the floors (Ken says I should strip the stairs, not sand them. He thinks they're pecan). Then strip all the mucky paint off the plaster ceiling medallion. And maybe the woodwork, too? Then paint the walls--I'm thinking amethyst, with some gold stencilling. And make a portiere for the double doors, to keep out drafts. The portiere rod is on its way from the U.K. as I type this. There's a demi-lune window over the front doors, and a matching filled-in one over the French door opposite. Ken thinks a little mural painted in there would be nice--a pastoral New England scene. I wonder what the front hall looked like when Pascal Emory first built it? I should do a little genealogy research and figure out if he has any heirs around today, maybe still in the area? I wonder if there are any old pictures....

That could be a resolution for next year.

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