E and I spent our ninth wedding anniversary atop the old barn, pulling the 20′ corrugated tin panels to salvage before its demolition the following week. We decided it was best to take down the building on account of all the rotten timbers we discovered as we cleared it out, the cobbled and crumbling multi-level concrete floors, and the piles of trash and manure that would have been nearly impossible to deal with to our satisfaction by hand. Tackling the job ourselves to make it safe and functional before the rains set in could have easily consumed the rest of the summer, and we just don’t have that kind of time. We are realizing that our outbuildings are our highest priority. To have them weatherproofed and operational before fall so we can continue making progress out of the weather feels crucial.
With my anxiety about one of us falling off the barn (since a neighbor recently fell off her roof and was badly injured) I begged E to rig up some ropes so we could tie-in while working up there. I think he enjoyed an excuse to throw some climbing rope, and with my harness just a bit more snug than it was in college I managed to wear it with my legs only going partially numb.
It was sure fun to be up there working together, pulling bucket loads of nails and looking out to a perfect view of the land and the coast range to the west. We were both tied off to one long loop that ran along the ridge, and as E went close to an edge I thought how convenient, even romantic that by literally being his ball and chain today I might actually save him from falling off the edge. As I continued to pull nails in my semi-meditative state, my mind wandered to how appropriate such an arrangement was to celebrate nine years together: being each other’s anchor in this way, keeping the other from going off the deep end when needed, being bound together as one to accomplish what felt like a monumental task. And no sooner had I settled on the magnificence of our union, I looked up to see E standing in the middle of the ridge, having just unclipped his harness because the ropes were tripping him up. He was smiling, handsome in the sun, looking around enjoying the freedom and the view from his perch. It seriously rattled me. But wait!! I thought, We’re each other’s ball and chain! You can’t just unclip!! I had to laugh at my somewhat silly notion that may have extrapolated itself a bit too far. I had not even considered that one of would eventually have to leave our arrangement to pee.
It was a stark reminder that he was, and always is, clipped in voluntarily. We’re all clipped in voluntarily to what we’re doing, to the relationships we’re in, to the jobs we commit ourselves to. While it might be complicated to unclip in many cases, the fact of the matter is that 99% of our actions are ultimately by choice. What we eat, what we buy, whether we take the stairs or the elevator, whether we choose engineering or farming. Sometimes those choices can trip us up; sometimes they can save our life. Sometimes you have to trust that unclipping from your current situation and enjoying the freedom of exercising that choice is exactly what you need to do.
We did get the roof off except for a few pieces we left because of a bird nest under the ridge. We wanted to give them the extra week to figure out the flying thing. Most of the nails were popped because of the rotten slats holding them up, so pulling them was actually pretty fun. E waged several battles with wasp nests in the ridge, and I managed to get a raging sunburn on my muffin top because of the way my shirt rode up – reminiscent of the plumber’s crack sunburn I got helping my dad put a roof on his garage in Flagstaff about 15 years ago. Some people just never learn, I guess (hand raised). So to anyone out there working on a roof, I highly advise tucking in your shirt. But only if you choose.