The Shed

“The man who works recognizes his own product in a world that has actually been transformed by his work: he recognizes himself in it, he sees in it his own human reality. In it he discovers and reveals to others the objective reality of his humanity, of the originally abstract and purely subjective idea he has of himself.” — Alexandre Kojeve
The whole ass-whipping of putting The Shed together diffused the pain of losing Estes, abandoning self-employment, selling away all the work we did on the house. For months after the move I prided myself on not killing a single house plant, not to mention the dogs or my wife. We all made it down, every last sentient friggin’ one of us. But it wasn’t enough.

I’d stood on the scaffolding when we remodeled the Estes house and ran my fingers across fascia dimpled by wind-driven hail—maybe the first hands to touch it since a crew hammered it up in ’73. I’d cut holes in its hide and filled them with new windows, replaced shingles driven off by winter wind, sanded 30 years of crap-brown paint off its ancient redwood deck.

I hugged it the day we left, an awkward embrace of its southeast corner, and apologized.

It took two solid years to make beauty from the randomness we bought into down here. Who would have thought 360 square feet of dirt and cinder block would be the foundation of a wonderful new relationship with my parents and wife? (And even with the damn dogs, who seemed to discover something new in themselves in the Shed’s grassy plot.)

I remember visiting Boulder more than a decade ago. I visited a friend, and in her rental there was a screen door. Someone had screwed a piece of one-by-six pine across the screen right where everyone pushes, so instead of ramming a hand through the screen you’d hit the board, which was rounded on it’s edges and polished by the grime of hundreds of renters’ hands.

I pushed the door open and let it shut several times. It was a clear, August day, and sunlight glinted off the nails in the board. Wind chimes tinkled in the dry morning air—a delicious change from Virginia in August.

The Flatirons rose silent and red above town, and the bustle of college students on the way to class made the streets feel lazy but alive. It was a morning for brunch, Frisbee, and feeling unfamiliar bricks underfoot. I marveled at the door. Such a simple, considered repair. So opposite the disrepair of life back then.

The catharsis of building is in nurturing an old, dying thing back to its once-proud self. What’s already there isn’t lost or discarded but, through art and effort, made whole. The soul of it is resurrection. Which is why our little creation is still called The Shed.

Someone asked this summer why I put so much work into it. I think I mumbled something about penance. Funny thing is, I loved every minute of it. 

How we found it in March of 2008. Thirty cubic yards of trash inside — 15 years of the previous owners’ cast offs, presided over by one angry pack rat (whom we spared in the razing / clean-up.)

Our neighbor Hans dug the water line. Here in cold-ass Colorado water lines sit at around 6 feet. even with a backhoe there’s a lot of hand digging to do. like under that footer you can see at upper left of the shot. The “dirt” is actually granite.

We had to demo a wall inside. It was only about five feet high, but all cinder block and every hole of the block filled with poured concrete. The pile weighed two tons. They told me so at the dump.

Momma firin’ up the hammer. My God she’s strong.

Hired out the slab. Did the framing myself with a little help from a yahoo who drove up from the plains.

Bay window — funnest part of the project. And to think I didn’t want to do it at first! Mom pushed it. Wife designed it. Turned out so cool. Can’t even imagine the place without it.

Looking slick now. This was before we blew the cellulose in.

Ash did the landscaping. I hadn’t even considered it. Without women the world would be really… functional. But not so pretty.

Patio looks flat. But it’s not. Still more than comfortable — it’s just that grading a piece of ground to accept stone is like doing math with your biceps.