July 11, 2018

Revision: Nails, Stitches, Stories

This is a story about revision. This is about fixing built things: re-arrangements, adjustments, and alignments.

Last week, a carpenter arrived to build a new set of steps for the front of the house. He had a pile of high quality lumber and good equipment. He did a great job, except the placement didn't look right. The post for the railing somewhat obstructed the flow out of the door, especially if one were to be carrying a couch, for instance.

This was only a matter of inches, but the stairs made everything wrong, even the door and  sidewalk. I contacted the contractor, and he agreed. Relieved that the contractor was on top of it, I tried to imagine the ways that they might move this heavy structure. Would they disassemble the solidly nailed steps? Would they use jacks to lift the stairs? Would they use a winch?  Would there be wheels involved? I had no idea. But I told myself they would know what to do. These were trained professionals with a lot of experience.

At 8:00 am the next day, the carpenter appeared with a helper.  I asked if it was difficult to move a set of stairs. "I have no idea!" they said. I laughed weakly. So. They had never done that mistake before. Oh dear.  Leaving them to their work, I went inside and then I left to run an errand. When I came back, it was done. The stairs were in perfect alignment and they were completely stable. Was it hard? I asked. The answer from the workmen: "No, surprisingly."

The next day, I was sewing a pair of linen pants. This was a very simple pattern for beginners, and I had experience with sewing. I made an adjustment to the pattern to add pockets. This didn't go well. Next, I sewed the front and back leg pieces wrong, and I had to do it over. The whole time, I was thinking about the carpenters. After I fixed the pockets, I moved on to the waistband.  I'd miscalculated and inadvertently shortened the rise.  I had to rip out the stitching and change the seam allowance, tricky because I had already reinforced the stitching four times. I'd spent $40 on the fabric, and it was beginning to look like I'd wasted time and money. At several points in the project, I almost threw the unfinished pants into the back of the closet. But I made myself continue. Suddenly, things came together. I can wear them. They even look professional.

Then I went to my manuscript in progress. I had hoped the stories would spring fully formed and perfect from the moment of inception. They didn't. I laid them out on the work table, my desk, and gazed from the window into the garden, not seeing the garden. The apple blossoms were falling, each leaving a small ovary, and these would soon swell. It did not look all that promising. I had no idea what to do, but this was no reason -- at all -- to quit. The answer will come in the completion.

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