I come to find out that concrete work is a lot like baking. The tools are bigger, the ingredients weigh more, the vessels in which you mix this with that are strictly utilitarian and practically indestructible. No pretty bowls, no hand-carved wooden spoons, no measuring in cups or grams and gently folding ingredients together with a deft wrist action. While standing outside this week, hoe in my hand, tub at my feet and bracing myself to begin combining the contents of an 80-pound bag with the appropriate quantity of fresh water, I thought: Dry ingredients (concrete mix) in the bowl (mixing tub) first, then add liquid (water from the hose) and mix until you reach the desired consistency.
Whose hair-brained idea to build stone steps was it anyway? Oh, right, mine.
Credit where credit is due, Sandy moved most of the heavy bags. My “moving” them is not like his. He lifts and carries.
I cajole. I finagle. I wiggle the bag that’s lying flat on the porch (under cover in case of rain)
until it is separate from its compatriots and in a clear path.
I then coax it onto its side edge and gently flop it over, and over, and over. This flopping-over is more like a thudding-over, but I keep gaining ground and proceed proudly. The bag will not have power over me, will not sit there heavily, immovably, laughing at my weakness (It’s out of her league! it’s saying haughtily. Out of her league!).
When you are weak, you must be creative in the moving of heavy things. The number of flops/thuds depends on how far the bag is from the edge of the porch, i.e. how many bags were in the neat pile, and where the next victim lies in said pile.
In preparation for this careful coaxing I have strategically placed the mixing tub under the very edge of the porch (about an 18” drop). (There is no more glamorous name for this large, plastic, rectangular, masonry-trade vessel, in case you were wondering – I looked it up.) I wiggle, maneuver, jockey and ultimately outfox that haughty bag until its narrow end rests on the guillotine (over the edge of the porch I mean) by about four or five inches, awaiting its fate.
The sharp edge of my mixing trowel slices through the skin of the neck (I mean the underside of the bag) and guts begin to spill out into my carefully placed mixing tub. Not willing to go to its rigor mortis without making a show of its doom, the powdery mix explodes in a cloud of concrete dust, coating everything in the vicinity with a layer that boldly proclaims I WAS HERE! The same teenager who fingers CLEAN ME on the rear window of a dirty van could inscribe any words anywhere on my porch. For days afterwards, indeed until you purposefully clean it off, that fine dusting stays behind, refuses to blow away like ordinary dust in the wind. No, no. This dust sticks. I WAS HERE!
It occurs to me that somehow I went from yummy home baking to gruesome public execution. What is happening to me!!?? Perhaps having been immersed this past week in Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History 48 – Prophets of Doom and having spent time admiring Sarah Silvey’s #Inktober – Something for the Connoisseurs has something to do with this? I refer specifically to Dan’s telling of the crazy medieval anarchy in the German city of Munster that led to lots of split blood and human cages hanging to this day from the steeple of the city’s church, I kid you not…
…and Sarah’s excellent drawing of Edgar Allen Poe’s coldblooded, The Cask of Amontillado protagonist using brick and mortar to wall up his victim attached to chains (behind that wall you see) in a catacomb.
Perhaps it is not only true that Necessity is the Mother of Invention and Weakness is the Mother of Cajoling. Perhaps Immersion is the Mother of Metaphor. We are what we think. We paint mind pictures and make comparisons based on what we look at, what we listen to. We develop opinions and take positions based on what we experienced in the past combined with what we see and touch in the now. Our present thing informs the next thing in our path.
Thank God it’s raining. A good day to bake something!! The concrete, waiting for slate on top and bluestone around the base, can continue curing all by itself.