In Fractions of an Inch

Tall Utah Celery Seedlings

A couple of weeks ago our association held a community cleanup.

We own a well, a wastewater treatment plant, two vacant lots, 25 acres of woods, roads, and sundry open spaces which require attention from time to time.

Teams policed up trash, landscaped near the well house, trimmed trees, inspected roads, and repaired a retaining wall around the community parking lot near access to the state park.

A group of us — men about my age — worked near an intersection where a tree blocked the view of oncoming traffic. We made quick work of the tree and piled the trimmed branches at the edge of the nearby parking lot. An adjacent retaining wall had fallen over and we couldn’t get the cement blocks to fit back into place. A retired contractor walked the short distance home and returned with a couple of paint scrapers to remove dirt built up along the joints of the blocks.

“It will only take an eighth of an inch,” he said.

We made short work of the wall and returned home for the rest of our day. As the African proverb says, “Many hands make light work.”

Our lives can be like these projects — they are our lives as we work them. We forget our origins and become crusted with habits accumulated in complex living to get by. To make a life work, we scrape off the residue of the past and make things fit in the present.

It rained yesterday and I went to town.

I recycled glass jars near the former grocery store on Dodge Street and drove into the county seat. En route I spotted a Charles Bukowski bumper sticker on a car not far from where John Irving lived and wrote during his early years.

There are always an abundance of construction detours in this UNESCO City of Literature. Parking in one of the ramps off Burlington, I walked past a construction site toward the jewelry store.

Wedding band in a pocket, I planned to resize it so it didn’t pinch and deform my ring finger more than it had. The jewelry store was gone… long gone from the look of it. I guess being a customer once every 36 years is not enough to sustain a local business. At first I didn’t know what to do.

I walked around the corner and found another jeweler. This one was established in 1854, 12 years after Iowa statehood. Staff was friendly and efficient. We determined one size larger would make the ring fit again. I’ll pick up the resized ring after farm work on Friday.

After waiting for an LTL carrier to back into the crowded construction site near the ramp I drove to Coralville.

This was my second shopping trip this month. The combination of adequate income, a worn out French press, and a wet, rainy day precipitated it. The fitting where the long rod of the plunger connected to the screen had become stripped with use. I researched on line and the Target store at the mall had what I wanted — something as close as possible to the French press I’d used for many years. It took me a while to locate it in the large box store.

I picked up a few items at other stores — necessities that fit our lives. I splurged on a bottle of Trader Joe’s organic ranch dressing. We usually make our own salad dressing but this is the season of spring salads and I craved something different. It cost $2.79. I visited the home, farm and auto supply store and bought three 16-quart bags of organic soil mix to transplant seedlings for further growth before planting. I appreciated the employee discount.

While rain kept me from gardening, the time was easy to fill with the habits of a creative life. We require a platform to create things the way my contractor friend kept tools to repair the retaining wall in his home workshop. Often that means fitting the bits and pieces of a seemingly random life into something stable and predictable — measured in fractions of an inch.

We depend on this more than we know.

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