These are busy days. I’m working on a couple talks I’ll be giving next month in Chicago, and taking a four-week writing course online (more on this in a future letter). I’ve also been tiling the main bathroom at the house, learning the rhythms that come with the materials.
And they do have rhythms, these materials. Take the stuff you use to adhere the tile to the floors and walls – the thinset – which after you mix with water is good for about four hours. Add the half hour of setup and the half hour of cleanup at the end, and this suggests full days: get there early in the morning, work through a batch, clean the bucket and break for lunch (which often means a trip to Home Depot, and with it, a pair of Home Depot hot dogs). Then you get back around 1 or 2pm, mix up another batch, work until the light’s gone.
None of this is by accident. There are bonding agents in the thinset powder designed to fit the workday; Home Depot knows you’re looking for quick sustenance so you can return to the job. It’s a self-reinforcing loop. Pretty soon, you’re keeping construction hours, and have construction bod.
I’m getting better, faster, though not fast enough; I’m still wasting a lot of thinset. But my hands are gaining trowel-feel and I’m making less of a mess as I work. My arms are less sore and the backaches are gone. There’s a marvel in all this, like trying to learn a song on the piano and finding that a sequence you struggled with the day before comes to your fingers easily, automatically – the marvel of watching your own body learn, and remember.
Julia and I are going to watch Game of Thrones, then it’s off to bed. I’m back at the house again tomorrow morning. Bright and early.