Painting as meditation

the finished product!


I assume that I am like everyone else in the world.  When I am faced with some sort of consistent activity or lack of activity, my mind tends to go into a meditation mode.  I am thinking, focused on what I am doing, but yet I am in what feels to me like a “zen” like mode.

This occurs to me when I drive long distances, swim laps in the pool, and even when I paint.  The other day, I went to my “Honey Don’t” list and decided to freshen up the room where Samantha naps when she is at our house.  I have to say that I just wasn’t happy with having her in there, in that the room was less than hospitable and the carpeting was annoying me.  I had tried to spot clean it but the years of wear and tear by the boys had pretty much killed it.  The thought occurred to me as well that perhaps that bedroom was the one where we had decided to have the wood floors refinished, then realized that perhaps with young boys, carpeting would be a better option.  I guess the carpeting made me look at the walls and realize that the combination was such that RJK had just received a call to action.

So, first I painted the room.  I checked the floor by pulling up a corner of the carpeting in the closet, although that wasn’t the best place to do so.  The floor looked good.  I then went in the main room and did the same and the floor looked really good.  One less thing to attend to as I didn’t need to do the drop cloth routine, what a treat!  I would just leave the carpet as my drop cloth.

I thought I would take an easy route and chose the same Ralph Lauren paint we had originally used.  We found out that Home Depot didn’t carry Ralph Lauren anymore although we soon found out that was not exactly the case.  We ordered it online, something I have never done with paint.  Normally, I use nothing but the best paint, Benjamin Moore at this point of my research, but this paint gives the impression of River Rock, which is what it is called.  I mention easy route since I figured I could put one coat on and be done.  I should know better, since this never happens!  I also always fall victim to naively thinking that something might move along quickly without incident.  Truth be told, two coats later (and another gallon purchase from Home Depot which does carry this “variety” of Ralph Lauren paint), it still looks like it might need another coat.  I didn’t do my usual thing by adding another coat since it is supposed to look rock-like with its special sandy finish.  I am thinking as well that this paint is a great reminder of the boys and all of their outdoor activities.

Being the French literature major, I have to mention Proust in my work on the walls.  In A la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past), Proust talks about the strange occurrence when his mind slipped into thinking of past memories as he ate Madeleines (French lemon molded cookies) and drank tea.  I, in a decidedly more mundane existence, had this happen to me while painting and meditating. 

This room was a major milestone as it is the last boy’s bedroom to be redone from its former self.  My mind wandered while working to all of the things the boys had done.  Remembering, for example, the experience of the “Dr. Pepper” bar advertising light my oldest had purchased, placed upon the bedroom walls, and left for his younger brother.  Pre-painting, I removed the extras from the walls and repaired the holes that were left.  I was amazed at the fact that several wall hangings were not level.  That surprised me as they have already surpassed me in their ability to do household chores of that nature.  That reminded me of their passing into adulthood.  I noticed a burn in the carpeting, wondering what exactly was the story that went along with its existence.  There are times in a parent’s life when he/she might not want to even know some things.  As I was perusing the interior of the closet I removed some clothing not yet taken by the boys.  I found a special wooden cutting board in the shape of a fish that is for scaling and filleting fish.  It made me thing of numerous forays to northern Wisconsin, our family’s special vacation location.  We have spent many a summer there unwinding from the hectic life of the north shore of Chicago.

Time passes and torches are passed from one generation to the other.  Christian’s child now naps in the room that he and one of his brothers used while growing up.  The completion of the room rehab is significant in the evolution of this room. At one point during my painting/meditation, tears actually welled up in my eyes and I was almost embarrassed at the effect the room was having on me.  I didn’t even tell anyone about this.

Strangely, the family recall was not the only recall I had.   I also thought back to my wonderful career and some of the wonderful people I had worked with and I have no idea why the painting of this room caused that.  I am guessing I thought of Adrienne, a most cherished colleague/friend of mine, because of her involvement in my sons’ lives.  All of this made me think of the wonderful things that have happened to me, I who had been genetically pre-disposed to viewing the glass half empty by my mom, was able to think instead of the blessings bestowed instead.

I view the painting of the room, as painful as activities like this sometimes are, as catharsis.  I am also very aware that this blog has become catharsis as well, however much less painful than the painting of the room can be.

I mentioned earlier that my impetus to the painting was my granddaughter, Samantha.  Previous to her sleeping in that room, I was not as inspired to change its status.  I have a great inner desire to do for others, and I have often wondered as to why I need that.  I wonder if it is because I need approval or need to be noticed.  That wouldn’t surprise me as my early life leads me to believe that that might be my motivation.  Perhaps someday it will be clear to me.  Whatever my motivation, I needed to provide for Samantha in a way that she deserves.

Two coats of paint later and the Koerners headed off to a wedding in downtown Chicago of a close family friend.  Crazy me, returns home on Sunday and decides since Monday is garbage day, that perhaps the carpeting should come off.  So up I headed with a good old box cutting device and started ripping up the carpeting and then removing the tacks and carpeting strips.  Mary Kay pitched in and we managed to get it all out.  Luckily, the floor beneath was in a decidedly good condition except for the areas where the foam padding had decided to attach itself to the wood flooring.

Painting was Thursday and Friday (one day per coat), Sunday for the carpet removal, and Monday I finished removing the remainder of the tacks and then did some sanding of woodwork, cleaning, and then painted all of the woodwork in the room.  I also put felt padding on the bottom of all of the furniture to protect the floor.

Tuesday was final cleanup and polishing of the bedroom set, touching up the walls and woodwork, and a final cleaning of the floor.  The cabinet, filled before with the vintage model cars and curious curios of adolescent boys now relegated to a plastic bin in the crawlspace, is now filled with my Eiffel Tower collection, German smokers (wooden figures that utilize incense which comes out of the pipes the characters are “smoking”), lead crystal animals, Hungarian and Italian objects, and the like.

The room is now set for Samantha.  It is my last major project of the season.  That feels good.  As I put some of the wall and woodwork paint in mason jelly jars for future touch up, I closed them and put away the memories, at least for the time being, of childhoods now gone, as another one is in full bloom.  As my youngest would say, “Life is Good!”


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