August 6, 2009


Our minds are in motion and are tending to stay that way.

Momentum is an interesting thing. I can change my mind like the wind, but put it in motion and I’m too often lost down that rabbit hole.

I ponder momentum as I start a renovation, searching for a straight line to measure off of. I have found I can spend as much time trying to find a worthy starting point as doing the job itself. The art of renovating a centuries old stone building is curious, the momentum of a half a centimeter can cause a drain to run backwards or a stair riser to become a trip hazard, and once a bad decision is made it can in fact be “cast in stone”. Spirit levels (the tool with the air bubble in a glass chamber) are relatively modern and levelity was not a great concern in the middle ages. Town planning was rare and buildings were built until they ran into an obstacle and were rarely square or plumb. I’m sure that ancient builders used plumb bobs or pendulums, but it didn’t seem to mater much that stuff was square. It all adds up to a conundrum of consequence. It helps that this latest project doesn’t even pretend to be square, it is an obvious trapezoid. The rez de chausse (street level) has a dirt floor and I suppose the animals that lived there never complained about the lack of right angles. Once you climb up to the etage (second level) the walls appear straight and the ceiling even appeared level, until I put my new laser level on the high corner and thought for certain I hadn’t set it incorrectly until I verified the degree of slope….8”! Once I had jacked up the beams so that the ends were all back in the same plane, I realized that century old oak beams develop a decent sag just from their own weight, so there was still more shimming to do. All along I’m questioning the value of “level”??? These buildings never had rolling office chairs to think about. So I am changing the momentum, and creating another of my own invention. But this is momentum with a small “m”.

An object at rest stays at rest…

Oscar selling his old books, boxes and bikes at the town flea market

Momentum is more important as we grope for a healthy trajectory in parenting. Once that line in the sand is drawn, it’s a difficult enterprise to cross it. I mean Oscar is smarter than I am in so many ways, but he’s looking to us for lessons and limits (even though he would never admit it). When those lessons dissolve between us, it’s a shift that sees the seawall eroded a measure. The problem is when the momentum of a poorly established limit is stronger than the lesson, and it’s a downhill slope. I often hear the echo of a yes or a no long into the cold dark night of a bad decision, and the puzzlement over changing one’s mind rings louder and louder as the decision moves further away. I favor the nurture argument over the nature, and that makes me even more anxious about the trajectory we are “responsible” for. There is plenty of momentum in the mind of a 47 year old parent, and it is often necessary to reverse a bit and find the flexibility of an 11 year old. It takes a lot longer to re-route a person going 47 than one going 11. Oscar can get over an over-zealous parent much quicker than we can let the same conflict pass.
Every relationship has it’s own momentum. I carry pieces of my parents and grandparents with me everywhere, little change, but a lot of inertia. I watch the patterns being established between Oscar and his parentals and wonder how far they will carry him?

An object in motion stays in motion…

Another momentum.

We are often given credit for our decision to move from our comfortable lives in California to an unknown life in France, but that decision came easy, made like most of our big decisions, on the back of a napkin. The difficult part was the inertia of that life, it was like pulling a plant out of the sand, some of the roots went deep, drinking and sustaining, and others were already growing on the surface noticing the sunlight and searching for soil. The fact that our lives were “at rest” was something we could bluff our way around, by telling ourselves it was a five year “temporary” plan, we cheated Newton’s law and before we noticed it we were here and setting roots all over again, storing passive energy into inertia for another day, another move. We spend a lot of idle time talking about where our future is heading, we think we can direct it a little, and we are trying to define the issues. So far, trying to prove Newton wrong has worked well for us, we’ll see where that takes us!

Oscar’s wearing jewelry (a chain)
Daniel’s wearing glasses (reading)
And Pat’s wearing French fashion.
Summer is all around us, tourists, houseguests and open windows…

Good momentum!
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More good stuff. Thanks for the update. Of course, I want more pics!