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October 2009

John Peterman has quoted, on several occasions, someone who said "The game of life is won by inches."  Those words have been resonating in my mind of late.  As a way to approach the formidable task most recently set before me.  Guilty of an overabundance of both enthusiasm and ego, the man responsible for installing the new roof (cedar shingles and copper box gutters) on my house proceeded to brush away my requests to work in logical sequence and proceeded with verve, style and courage to address all aspects of the job that were best within his scope.  Dismissing me and my requests at the beginning of each day with a smile, he did, beautifully I must say, the major work needed without finishing anything.  His promises to not leave me "hanging" were most convincing.  His offers to promptly and efficiently repair all damages caused by his consistent inability to foresee consequences were equally convincing. Until he disappeared.  So be it.

            I am left with the kind of chaos that only occurs after a major incident caused by nature such as a tornado.  Having spent a considerable amount of money on an unfinished roof I am standing facing the impending winter.  What to do when faced with so many inches, no cash, and no real help?  What I have decided to do is combine one familiar faulty but tried and true method with one untested but with great promise.  Often, work here is completed on a seemingly erratic manner.  Someone will turn up who is good at doing a particular kind of job and although it may place eighth in a list of forty-three items, numbers one through seven will be set aside and boards will be cut for the green fence rather than the sink being repaired.  The fancied, and as yet, untested method is to "go for finished units".  That has been a fantasy of mine for quite some time.  However, with every room affected in this house of many rooms, repainting, restoring, renewing, can take a very, very long time if done in erratic increments.  Therefore, going for finished units may, in the long run, be wise.  But there is the human element.  Two of them.  I am one of them.  The interchangeability and inconsistent nature of workmen the second.

            Somewhere I have to find the heart and courage to address this undertaking.  Some of which includes, as an example, plaster ceilings partially or totally having fallen down. But the key, for me, at least, lives in that sentence that continues its refrain; "The game of life is won by inches."  And so it would seem.  So, I bought a dress.  The first, or was it the second year I began farming it, when tiredness and dirt and grunge and sleeping in my clothes were all new to me, and the joy and heartache of being a farmer most sharply felt, were not as intermingled as they are now, I received a tidy, long, narrow catalogue from the J. Peterman Company.  In it were drawings of clothes and other interesting things with a text evoking the feeling one would have or identify with when wearing the clothes.  I had been a fashion designer and that concept was the essence of what made my work successful.  I remembered opening the pages, sitting in front of my fire, a part of me that had been buried in the intensity of the life here.  A part no longer noticed.  Nor drawn from.  From time to time, when the sheep and goats and chickens showed a plus rather than a minus sign in the ledger, I bought a part of Glamour Pants or a red suede vest, or the Half Moon Hunting Vest.  Once I bought a dress.  It came in the wrong something or other.  I returned it twice.  Hope springs eternal.  And the third time it arrived in my mailbox a check for the full purchase price was included.  Thank you again J. Peterman.  That was the last dress I bought.  Until two days ago.  This newest event to soon join my closet, jam packed with men's white shirts, very nice sweaters from the Salvation Army that someone had mistakenly thrown into the wash and retrieved only to find them felted (now impervious to winter winds for me, or cut into little coats for lambs and kid goats) is a Buffalo plaid black and red shirt dress with ¾ sleeves and a very full skirt.

            I am to go on an excursion in a few days to sell some unthrifty lambs, a murderous goat, a frost damaged kid, as well as to borrow a sable buck from my friends the nuns at Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery in Otego, and to pick up the bacon in Laurens I had smoked when we butchered a pig a couple of months ago.  My true love will be driving his blue pick-up and I shall get to see his countryman's version of the autumn landscape. He likes women in skirts.  His generation has actually seen women in skirts on a regular basis.  I decided to surprise him and wear my new dress.  We all need a bit of a lift from time to time.  Somehow I feel this will do it.

            But back to inches.  Which inch shall I choose today?  And perhaps it shall be an inch in actuality rather than symbolically.  I've started washing the floor of the second floor white bedroom in preparation to polyurethane it.  The lovely little porch of it is newly painted and the floor has been sanded and varnished.  Olde Maple.  If the people who have chosen to name that color Olde Maple actually knew how these words should be pronounced I doubt if they would have done it.  There are two doors leading into it both with panes of glass.  One is original.  The second serves as a storm door.  The original door is about an inch and a half thick as are most of the doors in this part of the house.  I cut some stencils once to decorate the door edges.  One was of green leaves.  The other, little checks.  I've wanted that room to be entirely white with, perhaps a minimal touch of pink.  Perhaps my new method of assessing inches would be best served were I to stencil pink and white checks on the innermost edge of the door.  A tiny bit bigger than an inch of a charming decoration that very few if anyone will ever see.  That very little private edge.  Another inch is probably more like 1/64th of an inch.  I wear pearl earrings to the barn every day.  A watch from Orvis guaranteed not to die under 50 feet of water, and sometimes a string or two of pearls.  But what I must do, with consistent regularity, is to wear eyeliner everyday.  To the barn.  Eyeliner will definitely do it.  The game of life is won by inches.

Sylvia Jorrin  

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