My Fingertip

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This morning as I went to put my bag in the passenger side of my car, I noticed a fly on the rim of the top of the car, just above the doorframe. I peered at it closely to see why it was moving so much, yet remaining in the same place. It had long, lovely oval shaped wings, kind of like a dragonfly’s wings. They weren’t short and stout like a housefly’s wings.

It turns out this fly was upside down. Its wings had become adhered to the surface of my car, stuck there in the moisture that had condensed on my car overnight. Bummer. I waited a moment, to see whether this was a momentary situation, or whether it was more serious. As I observed the fly moving, it seemed that no matter how much the fly struggled, the wings stayed flat and stuck. I worried for this fly.

I know, I know. Some might say, Laurel, why worry about a small fly stuck on your car? I am the kind of person, when given the option, will chose to walk around an ant or a bug rather than stomp right on it during the course of a walk. Also, I was afraid that if I did nothing, the fly would die, and worse, that I would be stuck with that image of a struggling fly in my mind all day long. My mind can be my best friend or my worst enemy. I have learned the value of thinking about how long something will stay in my mind and when I have options, what I can do about it.

What to do, what to do? I could see clearly that the wings were flat and smoothed over by moisture, almost like tissue paper would be if someone dripped a dropper full of water onto it. There was complete contact with the surface of the car – no bubbles or edges to pry off. Like a stamp licked and smoothed flat on the surface of an envelope.

I considered gently taking the body of the fly between my fingers and pulling. But, then I thought, what if the action of me doing that sent the fly swirling into a panic that hastened its demise? It was already locked in a struggle it did not seem to be able to win…and I had no way to communicate, “Hey fly, I’m only here to help!” Maybe someday there will be A/I human to non-human telepathic communicators!

Since I don’t live in the world of the Star Trek future, I had to focus on what I could do that wouldn’t make the fly’s situation worse. What if I pulled on the body of the fly, and, God forbid, its wings were torn in two? Or what if its body split from the pressure, even worse!!! Ew, gross! That was definitely not the kind of morning memory I wanted to have in my mind later in the day. That would really freak me out.

I considered taking the edge of my fingernail and trying to slide it carefully under the stuck wing. I hesitated…it’s one thing to leave a struggling being without helping…it’s another thing to try to help and to actively damage that being and make the situation worse. It’s a risk we sometimes have to take. But, I was worried. I know little about biology, but I know that wings are delicate and very important to a fly.

I was stumped. I was also beginning to feel kind of foolish standing out in the street and hoping to help this fly. I needed to get to work. So I took a moment. I took a breath. And I said a little wish, or prayer that I often say when faced with a situation where I know I want to do something, yet I don’t know what it is that I need to do. It went something like this:

“Mind,” I said, “or spirit guides, or God, greater consciousness, whatever might be possibly out there and willing to help this fly live, let me know if I’m missing anything. Let me know if there’s another option.”

Almost with out thinking, I reached my fingertip carefully out, close to the upside down, struggling fly. To my great surprise and wonder, the fly immediately latched on to my fingertip with all available legs. The fly took hold, and within a couple of seconds was able to pull itself away from the car. The wings of the fly were pulled along with it and began to flutter gently. I was stunned. I hadn’t even been able to sense the touch of those fly legs – they were that light! But I saw them hold my fingertip and I was moved by this act of rescue. All it took was allowing the fly access to what was needed so that the fly could take care of business. So that the fly could pull its own wings away and live.

The fly held onto my finger pretty good. As I thought about my next step, I realized that I wanted to give the fly a chance to recuperate. Who knows how long those wings had been stuck? How long those legs and body had been struggling. I’d hate for that fly to be so tired from the struggle that it tried to go airborne and died from a crash landing!

The closest available secure surface was our mailbox, about 6 feet away. I tried to encourage the fly to go to it, but as the fly put one leg onto it there was a sense of “no way, I’m not going on that thing!” while the fly retracted the leg and stayed attached to my finger. I realized that our mailbox is painted white, exactly like my car. I could understand why to this fly that might not seem appealing, given what it had just been through!

I knelt down and moved my hand close to a large rock at the base of our mailbox. All the while the fly’s wings had been fluttering a little. When the fly touched the surface of the rock with its leg, the wings surged in what to me was a joyful flurry of movement! The fly released my fingertip and walked onto the rock with a definite “pep” in its step.

The nature of life is such that, occasionally a single experience can hold deep meaning.

This experience with the fly taught me something profound…maybe more than one thing.

It taught me that there are many options when confronted with suffering. That sometimes we have to be careful not to do more damage when we try to help. That some flies’ legs are so tiny they can hold me and I can’t even feel them!

And that offering a source of strength and letting a suffering being take hold and release themselves can be way more powerful and more effective than trying to do it for them. As someone who struggles with codependency this lesson was perhaps the most valuable. And as a person who has dedicated much of my career to non-profit, “people-helping” types of work, this lesson was the most important.

My heart still swells when I remember those tiny legs taking hold of my fingertip.

(Photo used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

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Tangerine Dream Part 3 – The Finished Look

Today I went to the studio on my lunch hour and laid down the final coat of paint on the second side of the room, the small side. I had to be careful as I was almost out of paint, and I didn’t want to waste a drop. I also had to freehand the line between my studio and the hallway, which turned out pretty well. I could have used painters tape, but I have found tape to be more trouble than it’s worth. For one thing, it often doesn’t come off cleanly — then you have to work it off of a wall or molding only to find rips or tears in the paint underneath. For another, freehanding challenges me to keep a steady and slow hand as I paint.

Today I was so excited about how I was almost finished, that I had to tell myself, “Relax, don’t be so excited that you lose your focus!” Painting is a kind of zen practice. If you stay relaxed and focused, it is not that hard to free hand and not rely on tape. If you know how to gently spiral your wrist as the paint goes on, you can keep an even flow. The other trick, at least with latex-based paints, is to keep a moist rag in your pocket (or in my case, the waistband of my old yoga pants). That way if you do drip or smear where you don’t want paint, it’s easy to simply wipe the area gently with the damp cloth and move on! The main problem comes when you rush it too fast, or tune out too much and make careless errors. It’s all about that sweet spot of focus.

After the last coat was down, I began the arduous process of CLEAN UP. It turns out that preparation and clean up for a painting job takes as long or longer than the painting itself. You can’t rush the clean up. I was especially careful as I didn’t want to drip orange paint anywhere in the hallway that led to the sink. I have a plastic tub full of old towels, washcloths, drop cloths and rags. It’s a great resource because then you know there are plenty of supplies in case you need them.

I had access to a utility sink, always nice because it usually already has some stains and isn’t a pristine surface. I cleaned out my brush really well. I started to clean out the roller covers but then I realized they had been used more than once before, had a few pebbles and other gunk stuck in them, and were probably best thrown away. (If I had another paint job coming up soon and no money left that month, I might have saved them. But since I should be done with painting for awhile I decided that for my next paint job I’ll buy new roller covers). I also threw away the paint tray liner, but washed off the paint tray itself. Finally, I kept that final little bit of paint in the can in case I ever need to do a touch up. Later I transferred that paint to a mason jar that I’ll keep in a drawer at the studio, along with a small brush.

I was so happy and even though it has taken me a bit longer than I planned, I feel like the project progressed smoothly. Check out the picture of the finished floor, and also with the furniture back in.

Note about maintenance: as I am moving and settling in, I’m very aware that any kind of painted floor is going to be subject to chips and scrapes. Even with the primer and two coats of paint, it wouldn’t be very hard to scratch the floor. After all of my hard work, that’s the last thing I want! So, I’ve decided that when I’m in the back part of the studio I will first remove my shoes. I’ve placed a small stand at the front of the studio for shoes. I’ll worry less about that front area – if it gets scratches I can touch them up or just live with them. Hopefully by keeping shoes off, I’ll ensure a longer life for the paint on the back area of the floor. I’ve also placed rugs and yoga mats to function as chair mats for my roller chair at the desk. What fun! I love the finished look so much! (see photos)

That’s the story, morning glory!  I hope if you live in Jackson you can come check out the studio in person. In fact there will be a building open house May 17, 2014.

Just be ready to take off your shoes!!!

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Tangerine Dream – Part 2 – The paint goes on!

A very big part of a successful paint job is careful planning. You want to plan ahead, because once the paint can is open, you need to have all of your ducks in a row. As I looked around my studio, I realized that the best way to handle this job was to divide it into two sections. That way, I could move all of the furniture and gear I already had in the studio to a small area in the front and paint the big back area. Once that part was complete, I could move everything back there and paint the smaller front area. Easy enough to do, and would not require me to store my stuff somewhere else during the job.

After moving all the furniture to the small area at the front of the studio, I mopped the big area that I intended to paint first and let it dry for a few hours. When I returned, I opened up the primer and got to work cutting in around the edge of the room. When painting walls, you can really roll first or cut in first. When I paint walls, I prefer to start with the hardest part (cutting in) and get that out of the way. It’s like having a nice PB&J sandwich, and eating the crusts first while anticipating how much you will savor the pillowy middle part. In my case, when painting walls, the rolling usually comes last – that’s the part where the results are fast, fun & gratifying.

However, because this job was a floor and not a wall, the process was different. if I wanted to cut in and roll in the same session, I had to cut in first. Otherwise I would have been walking on the wet, rolled paint to get to the corners of the room.

As I got started, I was a bit surprised at how runny the primer seemed. Normally, latex primer (for painting walls) is quite a bit thicker than the paint itself. In fact I usually have to spend twice as long cleaning out my brush after using primer than when I clean it out after using paint, because it’s thicker and sticks to the brush.

This is a great reminder to ALWAYS READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! (I can hear my hubs Daniel reading this and rolling his eyes now!) Because I was so familiar with painting walls, I assumed that the cement floor process of “primer + paint” was the same. With great luck I ran into print-maker and building manager Richard Stowe on my way to wash my hands. (Note on that – if you are painting with latex paint – washing your hands frequently will help you avoid stuck-on paint and long scrubbing during clean up). “How’s it going?,” he asked, “have you become light-headed from the fumes yet?” I told him the primer had gone on a bit thin but I thought that after two coats of paint on top of the primer that the floor would probably have good coverage.

“Thin?” he asked, puzzled. “Make sure you wait long enough to put the paint coat on.”

“I was thinking 24 hours, ” I said.

“Well, what does the can say?” he asked.

“Ah, let’s take a look.” We walked back to the studio and I picked up the can of primer. To my great surprise, the directions said that you must place the first coat of paint on top of the primer between 1 – 4 hours after priming the floor. If you wait too long, you have to start over from the beginning and put another coat of primer down! What??? With every other kind of painting I’ve done, I’ve had to make sure to wait long enough to let the primer dry thoroughly. In this case, though, the primer is called a “bonding” primer and it needs to be coated with paint within four hours to make a good seal. Otherwise you have to start from the beginning again, and lay down another coat of primer.

How fortunate I am that Richard was there to offer that simple, yet crucial suggestion to “read the paint can!” I find the biggest challenges with projects like these comes from assumptions I’ve made – often assumptions that I don’t realize I have made. (What is that saying? “You don’t know what you don’t know?”) Luckily since it was Sunday I had the time to go home for two hours and then come back and put down the first coat of paint within the 4-hour window.

I loved the smooth texture the primer coat made – almost a glisten (see photos).  The paint went on very well, though the first coat did not achieve complete coverage. Also, the original floor color was a stained concrete that was somewhat dark, so sometimes it takes a bit more paint to cover a darker color.

I put a second coat of paint down (total of one coat primer, 2 coats of paint) to get really good coverage and protect against chips (see photos). I could go another step further and treat it with an epoxy clear coat. However, my budget was spent for the project, and I was getting tired of breathing fumes. I know I’ll have to be careful to not scratch the floor but I’m okay with that.

After the second coat went on, things really started to gel. What a powerful color! It seemed to me to be just perfect! It doesn’t hurt that orange is the color associated with creativity in the Indian system of chakras. To me it is associated with grounded energy, with the earth, with fun and with abundance.

Stay tuned for Part 3 – The Finished Look

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