Renovation

Monday

  • First heavy snowfall marks the beginning of new year psychological renovation.  Ground details are blanketed, only soft patterns of white and stark branches on crystal skies remain.  Now it truly seems the world is ready for renewal.  Sunrise, sunset, even the full moon casting blue shadows distill an unspoiled primal beauty.  Such a mood is only enhanced by harsh chill winds insisting people not linger too long.
  • Being perverse, now that the expectations of winter storms have been fulfilled, I am quite ready for daffodils and robins.  But like any good renovation project, that will take longer than I really want.  We probably have at least a one month of deep winter to go.   My goal now is to greet it with anticipation, rather than endure it with dread.

Tuesday

Fresh coats of paint, deep winter snows
Refocus what we see
For better, worse, or much the same
May never be agreed.
Fine beginnings may require
The loss of what once was
That is progress, we are told,
Conformed to natural laws
But new’s soon old, and in the way
Our racing lives move on
Fresh moments fill our circumstance
Each day unique at dawn.

Wednesday

  • Birds can be observed all year, although an advantage of winter viewing is that they can be almost tamed by a properly positioned bird feeder.  Maybe more than that, the viewer can be tamed by having little else to do.  Sometimes, during renovation, one is forced to observe a bit harder and deeper because normal avenues of excitement are restricted.
  • I rarely take pictures right around the house, or, as here, from inside it.  But when snowbanks block the shoulders of the road, I use our treadmill for walking and am nudged to notice what can be discovered a few yards away from our bed.  Often, it surprises me immensely _ sunset, woodpeckers, beautifully patterned bark.  It is an internal fault that I need such excuses to pay attention to things I usually ignore. 

Thursday

As we met at the library on a drizzly February afternoon, Anne complained “The potholes are back.”
“Yeah, noticed that,” agreed Earl.  “After the fortune the town spent last summer resurfacing the roads.”
“That’s the nature of fixing things that break,” said Sam.  “They just break again.”
“But you expect them to stay new longer than six months.  My kitchen looked newer for almost ten years.”
“And things like park renovation at Caumsett can last for decades.  Lots of decades.”
“The other problem is, I don’t think they do them as well as they should,” continued Earl.  “That park they redid on Mill Dam is a big step down in character from the old one.”
“Which would have been in the water by now, with the storms we’ve had, if they hadn’t done something.”
“Wish they could renovate us,” mused Sam.  “Wish they could renovate me.”

“You could use it.  You do remind me of one of the old roads before they worked on it.”

Friday

  • Nature is the grand renovator.  By summer, these brown flattened reeds will once again be green and upright as if winter storms had never happened.  Foundation roots remain firm and strong, and will soon provide the necessary impetus for spring growth back to verdant glory.  Nature spends solar energy around this harbor to the same effect as humans use cash to update their kitchen.
  • Our perceptions depend on how closely we examine the situation.  For example, this reed patch is a small fragment of the local environment.  And no matter how exactly our memory claims they have been recreated come July, no set of growth is ever precisely as it was.  Again, like our own renovation projects, getting the results necessary require more complexity, time, and resources than we anticipate. 

Saturday

  • Huntington is in one of the older sections of the United States, so it faces some of the same issues that have confronted Europe for centuries (at least when wars were not making such decisions for it.)  When old structures or areas become decrepit and decayed, should they be cleared for reuse or renovated?
  • Razing something to the ground and starting over has a lot of advantages.  It is often cheaper and can use new technology.  Tastes change, as do public and private needs.  Rebuilding confronts the core fact that the people who are alive now are the ones with needs and desires.
  • Renovating preserves links to the past.  That is romantically attractive, and has the virtue of fostering historic civic virtue.  But to work well, it must bind itself to certain rules: thus far and no further.  Such is the terror in living in historically designated houses, for example.  Preservation of patrimony is expensive and while wonderful in concept, inconvenient in application.
  • For various reasons, American culture has generally built in a throw-away manner.  Except for various public edifices, even large buildings and public works were considered temporary.  A town might remain for hundreds of years, but nobody was concerned about the fate of the local hardware store building.  Besides, most people firmly believed their descendants would be living elsewhere in the not so distant future anyway.  Public attitude has leaned toward razing the outmoded and starting anew on the rubble. 
  • As a romantic, I deplore cheap practices.  Towns do not have the resources to perform preservation, so they flatten and start over whenever something requires extensive fixes.  Parks, schools, village centers _ get rid of everything possible and redo at least cost.  Redoing at least cost means the elimination of just about every aesthetic consideration.
  • As a taxpayer, I’m not so sure.

Sunday

  • After two feet of dry blizzard snow had mostly melted away, another foot of wet snow coated everything.  Branches broke, evergreens and shrubs bent low to the ground like penitent monks.  February, after all, is the month in which such things are supposed to happen.  White ground cover is good for the prematurely emerging bulbs.
  • I focus on the beauty of the clean white cover.  Enjoy the exhilaration of crisp clear air.  Marvel at the contrasts provided by bright sky, golden sun, blue shadows.  But, being human, I have a little voice continuing to wish spring would just hurry along a little bit faster.

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