The parable of new paint

It all started when I hung a different painting in the downstairs bathroom. It was a lovely Korean landscape that I inherited from my mother-in-law’s house. The picture is an original oil painting of green fields and blue skies. I really like the piece of art, but it made it clear that the colors in the bathroom needed to change. It was time anyway, the walls needed some fresh paint.

The local hardware store had a paint sale. It was such a great sale that I decided to buy paint, not only for the downstairs bathroom, but for the living room and sun room as well. Those rooms open into each other and into the kitchen. The kitchen was repainted a while ago and the other two rooms really cried out for their turn to be spruced up.

In spite of the nice weather for gardening, I had somehow not managed to get to the painting until just a couple of weeks ago. First I painted window trim, doorways and baseboards. Windows really have a lot of pieces and angles and usually need more than one coat of paint. That took a while.

Of course, if one is going to paint walls and ceilings, one must move all the furniture, take down all the artwork and photos, pull all the nails, fill the holes and cover the floors.  I moved all the furniture from the sun room to the living room. I vacuumed all the spider webs from the corners. I taped off things I didn’t want painted. The actual painting didn’t take long. It would have taken less time, except   I got green paint on the part that was supposed to be off white and then I got off white on the parts that were supposed to be green. How is it that a drop of paint from your brush can always find the two square inches of floor missed by the drop cloth? What were we thinking when we put such rough texturing on the ceiling?

I had paint in my hair, on my clothes, on my face and arms.

As I was putting the furniture back after pulling off all the masking tape and scrubbing the floor, I realized there was a little dusting and vacuuming required. If one has gone to all the trouble to paint and clean, why put everything back in the same place. I rearranged the furniture.

When that was done, I started over in the living room which also houses Terry’s huge, heavy antique roll top desk. Not only is the desk heavy, it is stacked with papers and books along with his computer. The two of us managed to move it 10 inches away from the wall before we started thinking about how hard it was going to be to move it back. We carried out over-filled file drawers, the file cabinet and a few boxes of odds and ends. Again, sand the window frame, prime, paint. Tape the edges, cover the floor and paint the edges. Paint. Repaint. Clean up drips. Remove tape. Move furniture. Clean the floor.  Rearrange the furniture. I’m not even going to talk about the number of times I’ve cleaned the brushes and rollers.

It all looks lovely, fresh and new, except now the age of the paint on the staircase is really noticeable. The door trim in the utility room needs to be repainted. A couple of windows need to be replaced. The front door needs painting. The upstairs bathroom needs the walls scrubbed at the very least. New towels, shower curtain and rugs would be nice.

This is all because of a new piece of art and a great paint sale.

Painting could be a metaphor for many things. Fresh paint brings with it a whole slew of unintended consequences. How often we change one thing and our action precipitates an avalanche of other changes. Sometimes those consequences are good and sometimes not. Painting caused us some marital stress because I made my husband clean off his desk. No doubt something of importance will have been thrown in the process, but other things have been found and we have uncluttered a little at the same time.

Sometimes our actions, though well-intentioned, have unintended negative impacts on others. Just as many laws are written in an attempt to solve a problem or protect the interests of our society’s most vulnerable, often those rules may make life difficult for someone else. We need to ask, “And then what?” and listen for the answers.

My mother warned about the consequences of telling lies. A little green paint on the white wall causes one to paint that spot over. If one isn’t careful repainting, a little white gets on the green which requires another clean up. One lie usually requires another to cover it which creates a new problem which needs hiding. It is much easier to plan ahead and avoid the mistake or the lie in the first place.

I will have to leave the staircase and the bathrooms for another day. I need to wait for the next paint sale. The garden is calling and the grass needs mowing.

Copyright © 2017 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains