In the midst of noise, trouble, and hard work

There’s a ladder living in our bathroom.


A small seven-word sentence. It doesn’t even have an exclamation point at the end. Although it should!

In 2011, when we became official owners of this little cottage, the bathroom was the first room we intended to refinish. It’s small, we thought; yes, start small. But then we ran into a few problems, so Mr. H.C. decided it would be better to redo the kitchen first. Now, six years later we are finally starting on the bathroom. The photos below show you what we’ve lived with for lo, these many years…

Yes, it would definitely win the Ugly Bathroom Contest. And just so you won’t think us total Appalachian hillbillies, I will show you the finished door that goes in to this contest-winning bathroom…

Through these years, we have collected most everything we need. Remember it was the first room we were going to tackle? Practically the first thing we bought for the house was the bathroom vanity and mirror. They’ve been against the wall in the garage bedroom covered in plastic all this time. The truth is often Not Pretty; but there is a glass-half-full outlook  — We already have:

  1. the sink,
  2. the sink faucet,
  3. the shower head and handles
  4. the vanity,
  5. the mirror,
  6. the lights,
  7. the toilet,
  8. a lovely cabinet with glass doors that was left over from the kitchen project,
  9. the tile for the shower floor,
  10. the tile for the vanity top, and, drum roll please….
  11. the pull-down attic ladder that will go in the ceiling — which was the initial problem that stopped this bathroom project all those many years ago.

That long list above, makes the list of still-to-purchase items rather short: subway tile for the shower walls, a shower pan, some incidental plumbing materials, and ceiling boards. Oh, and paint. And maybe a glass-block window. We haven’t really decided about the window yet. That’s the least of our worries; we haven’t gotten to that wall yet…

But can I just be honest and say, this prolonged bathroom project has made for a lot of anxiety and needless tension? The last unnecessary comment I made was earlier this year: Mr. H.C. thought maybe we could invite some folks over for dinner.
We have a lovely kitchen.
We have a lovely dining room.
We have a lovely porch.
We have a lovely living room.
Did I focus on any of those? No.
I said, “No one is getting invited here for dinner until the bathroom is finished.”
I mean, let’s face it: you can’t invite people for dinner and then shove them out the door right after dessert because you don’t want them to use your bathroom….

Bathroom wall — looks like old Italian plaster, eh?

Yes, there it is again: the ugly truth. It’s right up there with those ugly bathroom walls.

And no, I never have had peace about living in the midst of a really ugly bathroom. Oh, every morning when I take a shower, I’m grateful for the hot running water. I lived without running water for several years, so I know about praise for hot showers…

It’s just that I really appreciate beauty, and there’s been no beauty in this bathroom for a long time…except in my mind’s eye. And I can’t show you any pretty photographs yet, because we are still in the midst of noise, trouble, and hard work. In fact, it’s only just now begun… But I can say that it is certainly easier to have peace knowing that the noise, trouble, and hard work will soon morph into that finished bathroom that has lived in my head for so long,

The longer the wait, the more we appreciate.

August Is Yellow

Part One
the august sun shines like a spotlight on the ten year old
joyfully riding her new green bicycle (without the training wheels) 
down the gravel driveway.

like a pro, not even braking,
she leans to the left and whizzes onto the dirt path
packed down through years of truck tires.

through the trees she rides, slowing now, for the pull of the dirt
is harder on bicycle tires (though easier on knees).
the trees bow to her, the queen of the bicycle.

the sun glints through the leaves and the air is
saturated with the sweet scent of ripe peaches
and the hum of satisfied and satiated bees.

she pays no attention to the glorious around her
because she is ten years old and not yet aware
that her childhood Augusts were golden.
peaches at apple hill

Part Two
the grandfather is waiting for her to tire of riding circles 
in the orchard. he figures it will take twice (maybe three times)
and she’ll be ready to listen to the lesson that peaches teach.

he has the ladder ready when 
she drops her bike next to the dusty green farm truck.
“Help me pick some peaches?” he asks.

he steadies the ladder and guides her small hand as they reach,
touching the fuzz gently, gently, every squeeze will bruise these 
peaches easy as you bruise those knees.

gently gently she places the peach in the basket looped over her 
      skinny arm.
he moves her hand to another hanging low on the branch. 
see this green? see this fuzz? peaches have to ripen on the tree.

their juices have to be warmed by the hot August sun. they take 
their time ripening and can’t be hurried. you can’t pick the tree 
clean, you have to go again and again to the same tree. 
       peaches teach patience.

together they fill the basket, moving the ladder around the tree
taking their time — savoring the tree-ripened juicy chin-sticky 
sweet yellow sweltering August patience-teaching peaches.

patience is not his usual shape, this short round man in the straw 
hat and farm clothes teaching peaches to the skinny girl with bruised
      knees. 
she learned peaches. she learned love. she still stamps her foot at
      patience

and she can’t abide sickly grocery store peaches.
grandfather

For the next few weeks I’m taking an online poetry course over at Monna McDiarmid’s place. This first week we were asked to write about childhood, and if we wanted, to use the color yellow. I probably won’t post  all the poems, but this one I liked because it was such a good memory of my grandfather, who built Apple Hill Cottage. And my sister sent me this photo just as I was writing the poem…It’s a work in progress. Comments welcome.