In the glare of construction lights, I dance with a pole. On the end of the pole, a paint roller spreads white primer across a mostly white ceiling and walls. I spin and dip it towards the tray on the floor. The lights make me feel famous.
Last week, I swung a vacuum hose around, sweeping white powder from ceilings and walls. That dance partner weighed more, awkward and noisy, chasing the kids upstairs.
Stella returned when it was quiet, jutted out her hip, and pointed my phone around the rooms, clicking the shutter fast like she was photographing glamorous models—shop vac, buckets, chairs. She zoomed into the pith of the project, giving me a new angle.
Now there is music playing and an audience—the kids, the cat. I am calm in this work. Like shoveling, painting invites thinking. I smooth the walls and my jumbled brain, creating blank surfaces. These surfaces become a canvas for beauty and creativity and home.
I want color. I’m hungry for any green, deep orange, blue-greens, rich browns. In the drywall mud-white and primer-white rooms, paint cards stand in stacks and litter walls and windowsills. In the bedroom, I force myself to tone down from “wild life” blue to “rocky shelter” gray. For the kitchen I choose “natural soap,” a color with less vibrance but more longevity than “subtle glow,” which is not subtle.
The kitchen ceiling, since I have washed off its decades of soot, seems the right kind of gold-greenish-beige to be retro, instead of just outdated. It appears to be old milk paint, which doesn’t contain lead. But it’s peeling, and the ceiling boards required some patching, and, in the end, I will paint over it.
I can nearly see the final products: a living room with a real sofa for crashing at the day’s end, a room with a large bay window and light pouring in onto the rug, a downstairs guest room in restful colors with windows facing south to the mountain and east up the hill.