—From EF—

I’m nearly done. It’s been a fascinating process, arguing with myself to take the time to fiddle with the design, to find the problem-points, to make the mistakes and repair them, and to be OK with saying, “No, I’d like it to be this way.” I think I’m going to be happy with the result. But boy, howdy, it’s been a bumpy path.

For starters, I was resistant to the idea. Our house cats want very much to roam around outdoors, and we want very much to prevent them from being roadkill. One of the brothers is a master Houdini and I swear can wiggle through a one-inch door-opening. We have done our best and have repeatedly lost the battle, resulting in a very long span (an hour and a half, once) of waiting for the magic moment of The Catch, all the time cramping with anxiety every time the animal veered toward the road.

The realization that we will get slower and clumsier as time marches on did the trick, and I realized that I needed to resign myself to building an entry-way with its own door, so that if a cat slithered through the major house door it would still be confined and could be caught. The challenge was to build something that looked intentional and comely.

The inspiration was the handrail I’d built at the side of the steps up to the porch, a safety addition made essential by Conrad’s fall and concussion last March. Our daughter Johanna had immediately come to give us two weeks of loving help, and she and I made ourselves into a crackerjack construction team while CB was still in the hospital. I loved the result. The house is painted a nice medium gray with soft green trim, and we built a graceful structure with a green frame and grey pickets. I love it.

Last year we hired a fence-builder to rehab our front deck and do a whole new surrounding fence. The result has been a joy, and I decided to use his design as a model for the lower part of this new structure. I’d bought some graceful decorative metalwork panels as a deer-deterrent fence around our raised-bed garden, and bought more of the same panels to put atop the porch’s wooden fencing, making a light and airy enclosure. That’s the last part for me to finish, modifying it to fit.

The last time I hung a door was thirty years ago in our Philly theatre/apartment, and I have a vivid memory of how important it was to have everything plumb, square, and level. I checked every stage of the process three ways from Sunday and did a good job. The first time I opened and closed it and heard the solid click of the latch was a trip. Then I looked up at the space over the door, not yet closed in, and my heart sank. The top of the door and the wood of its frame were not remotely parallel. The square and the spirit level all said the door was correct, and finally I thought to check the major 4×4 beams of the porch itself. Turns out I built a level door in a hinky house.

After I cried, I laughed, and I’ll add some cosmetic framing that makes the beam’s droop less evident. I can always claim it was intentional. It’s an old tale that a small deliberate error avoids offending the gods—perfection is arrogance. So there.


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