Draft

A kind of garden

Draft of 2005.08.28 ☛ 2015.04.02 ☛ 2016.07.16

This week was spent on a “small” home improvement project, out of town. Not much time taken to write, which in a sense is good, and in a sense ill.

< tangent > I have the feeling that many of the younger academics who seem to make up my readers are perennial renters; I see a lot of novice homeowner stuff cropping up in my recent bloggish reading, which discusses the complexities of even minor household tasks like lawn mowing, purchasing furniture, &c.

On the assumption that some of these folks will eventually become homeowners and need to learn which one is the hole in the ground, I’d like to pass along one bit of advice, hard-earned bit, of the sort that I have repeatedly ignored to my inevitable regret and real, physical pain:

Do not imagine that bathrooms, because they are small, are in any sense easier to work on. This covers all aspects of work: painting, simple wall repair, flooring, electrical work, window treatments. Bathrooms, even though they get steady wear and tear and go out of date quickly, are not the place to begin. The wallpaper is inevitably hard to remove, unexpected time-eating horrors lurk (especially in corners; Lovecraft was talking about bathrooms) for those who remove tile, the painting is more than half cutting-in, every piece of flooring will be fiddly and oddly-shaped and cut on three sides and cannot be so fashioned as to avoid all the obstructions (no matter how much trigonometry and template-making you bring to bear), and the wiring of a 20-pound wall fixture (which takes two people and a ladder and involves little teeny easily-dropped bits) is more or less a nightmare.

This, our sixth renovated/redecorated bathroom, went more smoothly than most. That’s about when you get used to them—around the fifth or sixth. Take my advice: stick to big, long-walled bedrooms and living rooms till you get the hang of things a bit. You are deceived if you think a larger wall will take longer to address than a short one. In home improvement, always remember that area is your companion and helper; perimeter your insidious and quirky enemy…. < /tangent >

So it was with great pleasure that I found two big boxes had arrived while we were gone, and were sitting on the floor of the foyer when we got home from our family renovation excursion. I tore into them.

These boxes contained some of the prettiest books I’ve ever had the pleasure to acquire: The first six volumes of Belgravia magazine, two full volumes of the Knickerbocker Monthly Magazine, and a couple of other miscellaneous periodical volumes (The Radical, and The Pictorial Family Magazine). Unlike a lot of the VOBs we’ve bought through the years, these are pristine, in fine half-morocco bindings, and look as if they’d be at home on a shelf behind a learned scholar or in a fire-lit drawing room. Absolutely stunning.

And thinking about my intense pleasure at these physical and cultural artifacts, and the pleasure, not of owning them (I am no miser), but of having them around—of being graced with their presence—you know what I realized I sound like? A garden club person.

Librarians are to horticulturists, as we are to garden club officers. Many people who “like” books are content with visiting vast archives and libraries maintained by long-respected institutions: Kew and the British Library; the Library of Congress and Butchart Gardens. Some folks are happy to hit the Recent Releases at the library and the plants at Home Depot, some folks are happy with Book of the Month Club and Burpee; others hunt and preserve heirloom varieties and antiquarian objects.

Is this just an aspect of any sufficiently advanced case of aficionadoism? Dunno. Rockhounding? Local history?