Deeper Than the Covering

The plaster of this house, covered with layers of paint and paper, has seen its better years. A century of settling and storms, winds and shudderings, has taken its toll. A brick flue rises through the basement, passing through the first and second floors and then the attic. In the corners of whatever walls are anchored to it, deeper fissures have formed. A half-inch of plaster, no matter how masterfully shaped, cannot keep tons of brick and mortar from settling into the earth.

These are not thin-seamed cracks that track their way along the lath and then turn upward; these are openings that run deep and diagonal, breaking clear through to their rootings. Peeling off the layers shows what wallpaper may disguise for a while but cannot heal. Eventually, the ruptures show through.

A week or a month of chiseling and gouging, scraping and tracing, followed by the layers of fill and smoothing, could repair this. A talented plasterer, or one stubborn in the sanding, given sufficient time and stamina, could make these wall surfaces level again.

I have chosen a different route, forgoing the hours of scraping and chiseling to remove the bottom layers of paper, covered with coats of paint. I have taken that path before and its memories are not dulled within me. Instead, I am using thin sheets of drywall that will cover all the unhealed cracks and crevices. In much less time, and with much less work, I will have a finished surface that meets the purpose, provides a seamless smooth for whatever we and future lovers of this home desire to do.

Of course, if the foundations do not hold true, new cracks will eventually appear. There is no covering that can handle the shifting of its deepest rootings without damage. Years of drought can turn firm footing into weak powder; months of flood can mud what lies far below the surface. Earthquakes can shake the deepest stone.

Whatever is of this world cannot escape its origins or its nature. To outlast it, we must build with things that cannot be seen, that are shaped with better tools than our own hands.

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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