As I find myself in the middle of a home improvement project that started as a first-floor ceiling repair and evolved into painting much of the second floor, I recall my training at the feet of the great house-painting master, Baba Yogi Sher Winwil-Liams.
There in his native Trinidad, as we sat cross-legged on our drop cloths listening to the sound of our breathing and the gentle spinning of paint rollers, Baba Yogi had us meditate on the idea that every freshly painted surface is merely an old surface reborn, but usually not with one coat. Man is imperfect, therefore painting by man is imperfect. Just ask his wife.
At best, man can only strive towards perfection or at best call in a professional.
Among the ways to seek perfection through painting are the three M’s: meditation, movement and moving out. The latter is an advanced move that paradoxically involves not painting at all, but it does require remortgaging and is therefore not for beginners.
Instead, I’d like to share with you some simple latex-based exercises and meditations that will bring you spiritual painting peace or at very least make you feel better about how different that colour looks on your doorframe than it did in the store.
The Infinite Swatch
Focusing on your breathing, enter the hardware store. Walk towards the paint section, exhaling through your nose. Do not inhale through your nose, because the person you just passed appears to have cut one. Okay, now you can inhale. Facing the row of paint swatches, stand with your feet slightly apart. Stare at the rows and rows of colour samples – Redacted Cornflower, Corvette Hangover, Sweet Poppin’ Hot Dog, Green Perplexity, Bert Convy’s Afro. Meditate on the infinite number of colours and the plight of the innocent who must choose one. Acknowledge your despair, make eye contact with it, invite your despair out for a drink, then ditch your despair with the bill. Only then will you be free to pick the colour of your choosing, probably cream.
The Descending Raja
Bending at the waist, lift your paint can from the basement floor and carry it, arm hanging straight, up two flights of stairs. Picture in your head the paint brushes, which you now realize you left on the first floor. Descend one flight, retrieve brushes, then turn gently and re-ascend. Meditate on the words of Yogi Baba, “How much can can a paint can paint,” because this will give you something to do as you return to the basement to rummage for some kind of screwdriver to pry the lid off. Ascend to the kitchen, where a butter knife will have to do. I think you know where you’re going now. Upon arrival, exhale loudly as you open the lid to discover this is not the colour you wanted. Repeat.
The Reverse Paint Can
Mount your stepladder and place the paint tin on the ladder tray. Then turn so that you are facing away from the ladder towards the wall you want to paint, because you didn’t quite think this through. Without moving your feet, twist your upper body to load your brush with paint. Become aware of your body’s motion, specifically how it doesn’t twist like it used to. Continue this motion until you require two Advil.
Dog Down or Possibly Cat
Move from a squatting position to all fours. Lower your head slowly to the floor. Open your consciousness to the fact that the baseboard is covered with animal hair, as one’s soul is covered with past transgressions. Paint over it anyway.
Oh, this isn’t a position, just another paint colour I forgot to mention. Coincidentally also the name of Yogi Baba’s favourite pub.
The Perilous Stairwell
Standing at the top of the stairs, fix your gaze on a spot in the stairwell you simply cannot reach. Calm your thoughts by recalling that your life insurance is paid up. With a loaded brush, deftly mount the stair railing, but not too deftly after all the Reverse Paint Cans. Find your centre of gravity by chanting “Whaaa! Whoooaa! Yeeee!” Outstretch your arms and gently fall forward, stopping yourself with one hand flat against the opposite wall. Paint the bare spot, then push yourself back into the upright position, hopefully successfully. If unsuccessful, do not attempt a second time.
These exercises will help you reach a higher plane, or at very least that hard to reach part of the ceiling. As Yogi Baba Sher Winwil-Liams said, “Enlightenment comes to he who climbs the tallest ladder, but paint fumes also help.”
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