This week we installed the white pine plank flooring, and with that, successfully finished the heavy construction part, and started the sock footed phase. I have done this before, 20 years ago, and it both feels like yesterday and an eternity ago, which made me think about time…
I do not see time as an arrow flying forward, leaving history in its wake. My experience of time is more elastic and circular—the future touches back on the past and yesterday stumbles over tomorrow. Sebastienne calls it “Maria’s rubber band infinity theory,” which I find adequately unserious.
To start with a basic thought experiment; think of the year as a circle where January resides at noon, April hangs out around 3, and October dawdles at 9. This circle is a rubber band, and as I give it a metaphorical pull and let go, this April day snaps together with October, which is both the previous one in 2013 and the coming one in 2014.
If you look at the circle as a person’s life: birth and death and all the rest are all infinitely close, entangled, and simultaneous. Our experience of time, however, is born in our now-ness, and like a rubber band it occasionally feels stretched out, sometimes all in a jumble or collapsed in a heap, and often it rests in something akin to the infinity symbol. As I stand here, rocking on my heels, today bumps into yesterday and tomorrow.
People often ask if we have any previous building experience, but so far in the construction pretty much everything has been a first. From this point on, though, I have some knowledge in my pocket. As a teenager, I spent close to three years renovating an old cottage on the farm I grew up on. With the help of my parents and my grandfather, and other helpful souls, I dug a cellar, put in new floor beams, insulation, and windows, designed and installed the kitchen and bathroom, scraped and painted the bead board ceiling, and everything else needed to make the 100 years old cottage livable. It was really cool to be able to move into my first “tiny house” when I was eighteen, even though my lust for adventure took me away from it shortly thereafter.
My grandfather, Olle Sjöholm, is dead, but my memory of him teaching me how to lay a plank floor is present enough for me to see the sweat rings on his red flannel shirt. To me, that time is not gone; it is just not where my now is. My perspective on time does not make me prone to nostalgia, attachments, or sentimentality, since everything and nothing is all there and not there at the same time. Olle, or “farfar” as I called him in Swedish, was not philosophically inclined, but he was a meticulous man, who did whatever he did with utmost care. It is a mystery to me how he always managed to keep his hands clean despite building and working on the farm. I am one to get glue behind my ears and paint in my armpits, not to mention the sad state of my hands, which Sebastienne says is because I throw myself into the work with my whole body and being. Not my farfar, though, he used his engineer mind and surprisingly tanned hands to plan and prepare a job down to the details. He often took as much time getting ready for the job as he took executing it. I often think of his preparation skills and clean hands, but I rarely have the patience to follow his example.
A lesson that stuck with me, though, is how to deal with cracks and gaps in a pine plank floor. I must have been 16, or so, when farfar and I installed the floor in “Kvanstugan” (The Mill Cottage). No matter how meticulously we worked, it was close to impossible to make the tongue and groove planks align and seal perfectly. When cracks inevitably happened, he gave me a conspiratorial nod, meaning that it was time for the “glue and sand technique.” First, squeeze good carpentry glue down into the crack. Second, scrape off excess glue with a spackle. Third, gently sand over the crack until it is full of sawdust. It is easier to get the sawdust in without getting the glue out if you go diagonally over the crack, but be careful not to scratch up the wood.
It took us, farfar and me, and Sebsatienne and me, two days to install the floor and two days to seal the cracks. It looks beautiful. Tack, farfar!