I believe this was the first time in many years that I did not post on Independence Day. I spent much of the day outside. It was a privilege and a joy, even though I did not spend my time at any Independence Day celebrations. This has not always been the case. In the past few years I have gone to cookouts, spent the day boating with friends, watched the Farragut Independence Day parade, gone downtown for the festivities there, watched fireworks, heard the symphony.
This year I celebrated my independence of choice. I celebrated the privilege to work, to work at projects of my choosing. In fact, the idea of privilege itself was a constant in my thoughts, and will perhaps be overused in this post. I thought about those who came to this country, many fleeing oppression of many kinds, seeking the freedom to choose their own lives, their own paths, their own work, their own religion. This is actually what our Declaration of Independence celebrates, the legacy of choice, the legacy of hard-working souls who insisted on their right to choose their own path.
Actually I wasn't doing anything so lofty. I worked in the yard, despite the fact that it was obnoxiously hot. I did some gardening early, mostly weeding, and then moved on to other projects. Yesterday felt like the first day of summer to me, although it wasn't really, but it felt like a day set aside, a day with no obligations, no interruptions, a day to do as I pleased. And I was pleased to wash and paint outdoor furniture.
This was not the first time I painted the Panton chairs. I refreshed the yellow chairs a few years ago. Apparently the colored chairs wee not meant to hold up outside, although they held up beautifully for years in Hyde Park. In Knoxville, after one year, they were pale faded versions of themselves. I don't know if it is the stronger sun, the longer humid season with its greater mold-producing tendencies, the pollen, or what. I spray painted them my second summer in Knoxville, and kept them in a protected spot afterward. But they went back outside here, at the new house, and were worse for it. They are not good outdoor chairs for Knoxville, and will not remain outdoors for any length of time in the future. But first they needed refurbishing.
I chose a color called lagoon. Four chairs were painted. There are no flat surfaces on a Panton chair, which means that it takes multiple steps to paint them, and it took much of the day, although there were periods of painting, and periods of waiting. I had lofty ambitions of cleaning the garage during the waiting periods, but it soon grew too steamy. I needed to run a couple of errands, and while I was out I decided to paint a table as well, a fairly modern black steel table that was looking worse for wear and was destined for the donation pile. I spent the remainder of the day washing and painting outdoor furniture, working in the garden and garage, and coming inside to work when I would get overheated, which was frequently during the middle of the afternoon.
As the afternoon waned, and I was out until nearly 9 before everything was finished, I would listen to various bursts of fireworks around me. I've not lived anywhere where so many fireworks went off, not at least in my adult life, although I remember going out to the lake or the countryside to set off fireworks with my parents when I was a child. I don't recall setting off fireworks at home, but I don't know if fireworks were allowed in city limits or not. In Hyde Park we could occasionally sit on our deck and watch the display from a nearby town, but often we went down to Poughkeepsie to see the fireworks display first-hand. Although I love professional fireworks displays, I have no interest in setting them off myself. In fact I love parades and fireworks, but somehow this year did not feel like going by myself, despite the fact that I knew I would see people I knew. I always see people I know. Not family however, I am the only one among my remaining local family who enjoy an occasional pyrotechnic display.
This year my intent had been to work and then go downtown, but I quickly realized that to leave would mean the work would be unfinished, and I chose to finish. I was content with my choice, reminded to once again to thank my own privilege, the privilege to choose to work, but also the privilege of keeping a cool house, the privilege to go inside whenever I felt overheated. These are luxuries not to be taken lightly. As I put the last piece of furniture in place, I saw the flash of some neighborhood fireworks through the trees, and I thought about what a happy fourth it had been. But I also thought about fireworks and parades and barbecues, and the many ways we celebrate the fourth of July, and that the very ability to do these things is a privilege, a privilege earned for us by our forebears, who were all immigrants to this place.
I am happy with the results of my labors. Two chairs remain outside, for now, but I will keep them here only a few days. The chairs will move with me to my apartment during construction. I'm not sure about the blue table yet. It is an inexpensive thing, the finish is peeling and flaking off the bottom, but it can go in the garage during construction, delaying the decision until next spring.
The table turned out well and I am newly entranced. It seems I am always drawn to color. I still don't know where it will go once the new deck is finished, as I want a larger table, but I love this light green. The pale blue chairs are not mine, we gave them to my step-daughter's family when we moved here, six years ago. It is hard to believe it has been so long. But they do look pretty with the table.
The other two Panton chairs are inside, in the morning room, with the twin to the now-green table. I did not paint this one as it always has a cloth. This table, and all four chairs will move to my apartment, as the dining space is not large enough for my dining table, even without the leaves. Looking at this photo, I see that the curtain needs to come down now, at least if I am going to leave the table in the corner, even temporarily. The curtains will come down anyway as I will be moving in less than a month.
But what about the "blue-banded booby"? I am the booby. Well, I actually believe we are all boobys at times, and in this instance I am not referring to the bird, but the other meaning of the word, although I am saying it with love and humor. Actually bobby's were so named because the sailors who named thought they were stupid. They weren't of course, perhaps unexperienced with humans, but they learned. I think that is something to remember, that we often make judgements based on incomplete information, that one seems stupid in one context may, in fact, not be stupid at all in another, and that we all, at some point make mistakes. Mistakes are actually what makes us human. Mistakes are probably the secret of our success, and the source of our greatest discoveries. We are all boobies and we should not take ourselves too seriously. It seems that much of the wisdom of age seems to revolve around holding things lightly, even mistakes.
I am the blue-banded booby. It was a very calm day, but at one point in the evening a breeze came up, and a few specks of dust got stuck in my wet paint. I can live with that. But I apparently did not realize that I was, at one point, downwind of the spray paint. It was late; I was tired; mistakes happen. Unfortunately, by the time I realized what had happened, the paint was sufficiently dry that it did not come off easily. I shall consider it a badge of honor, honoring my humanity, and a birthday gift to myself, although only a temporary one. Within a few days all remnants of blue shall be gone and only the memory will remain -- memory and perhaps a gentle smile.