In December of 2011 my little family of three and three little cats loaded ourselves and gear into my Dodge pickup truck and headed to Maine. The 6 hour trip went as well as one could hope with Oscar sleeping for most of the drive.
Soon after our arrival we were settled into the recently finished bedroom with a fire raging in the little wood-burning stove. It would take a day or so before the place would really be truly cozy as all the wall cavities take time to fill with warmth to create an "envelope". During a stretch of cold weather the holes in the envelope always become more apparent and I must turn my attention to sealing them up. This visit was no exception.
Our stay lasted for two weeks. It was a good chunk of time, however my progress was very slow. I really don't know where the time went. I do know that my attention to each project was continually divided. There always seemed to be some sort of Oscar-related incident to attend to and Sarah needed time for herself too which required me to do a little babysitting. Even a brief disturbance would throw off my rhythm of work. At the end of each day I would look at what I had accomplished and was amazed at how little I had done. I was used to accomplishing so much more. Frustrating as it was there was something very satisfying about having my little family there. Wasn't that the whole point?
Those days did give me some insight into my process. I am like a ten speed bicycle missing the first five gears. It is very slow and difficult to get moving until I can build some inertia. Once moving I can go very fast; until I am brought to a halt. Once stopped I must start all over again, slowly gaining momentum, eventually working into a rhythm that allows me to build with speed. I think this is why I have trouble working with others, whatever the project happens to be. When others get involved I am too concerned with explaining and delegating to get really deep into the process. And because there are no construction plans I compose the assembly and end result in my head as I work. If that visualization is interrupted it can take extra time to recall and usually requires back steps to begin building momentum again.
I did accomplish some things. At the very forefront of my goals was to make my woman comfortable: my best hope for making my life and my work comfortable. The bedroom had been finished and painted on our last visit so that was a good start. The door was still missing (yet to be custom built) so we hung a sheet and that seemed good enough to contain the room as somewhat of a sanctuary, separate from the construction zone. A little space heater was also added to supplement the wood stove on especially cold days.
Another bold step in the effort to keep wifey happy was to purchase an iphone some weeks before our trip. It was something I felt I had no need for personally, but when enabled could act as a "hot spot" for her to be online. Later I was to find that for myself it is a very useful device.
My first project, still in the vein of making the place more comfortable, was to get the hot water going. I had plumbed the lines to the kitchen and installed the sink on a previous trip. The lines to the shower and bathroom sink I had also plumbed two years prior, late one sleepless night. All that was left to do was to fill the water heater (also installed two years prior) and wire it to the breaker box with heavy 10 gauge. I had delayed this step for quite sometime, mostly because I was used to roughing it and felt I did not need hot water, and partly due to the nagging fear at the back of my skull that all hell would break loose as soon as I put water through this system. My track record at putting pipes together that did not leak was so far quite abysmal. But it was a step that must be taken so I opened the valve and let the tank fill. So far so good.. until the tank filled and water rushed through the pipes and blew out the seams in three different places. I quickly turned off the water and sopped up the resulting mess. Eventually after some repairs and a few more tries, the system held and I could announce to my lovely bride that she may now wash her hands with hot water whenever she wished. That made Sarah very happy, Oscar however seemed unimpressed and aloof. Now to the shower stall..
The shower is an odd shape, and entirely custom. In keeping with my resolve to make every project in the house weird and complicated, this job would no doubt take a long time to complete. In previous trips I had by degrees managed to build the wooden 2X3 frame of the five sided shower stall and even collected some of the cement board required to sheath it's inner walls, over which I would eventually tile. The floor or shower pan was in itself a complicated project. That too I had assembled (for the most part) three years prior in our little apartment in Wellfleet. It consisted of a layer of cement sloped toward the drain in the center of the pentagonal pan. On top of that a layer of rubber roofing material fitted into the drain housing with an excess on the outer edges to complete the seal up the sides of the stall. On top of that a layer of thin-set cement and over that I had pieced together and glued down a colorful octopus mosaic of broken plates (donated by our neighbor, Janet). All it needed at that point was for the mosaic to be completed around the edges so that it would climb to an even point around the bottom of the walls where tiles would begin. First I had to hang all of the cement board in the stall. Then grout, then sealer; and Bob's yer uncle!
That whole process took awhile. After a multitude of distractions, unrelated maintenance and cutting firewood I finally finished the floor of the shower. I did not have the time or enough materials to tile the walls so I hung a plastic sheet around the inside of the shower so we could use it. At that point we were at the end of our two week stay and it was now 2012.
Showering that evening felt really really good. I thought back to when I had first started the house, before the electricity and the septic system. I remember January of '08 sleeping on a moldy sofa pulled up next to the wood stove curled up in army surplus blankets. The shack at that time that I had built with a chain saw didn't even have a roof at that point. In the mornings I would make a cup of coffee and sit in the outhouse upon an icy throne and wonder what madness had brought me to these woods of Maine; and how completely happy I was to be there.