Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bouncing Back

I hit a wall this week.

Since the beginning of the month, I've been getting up every day at 6am to get my family off to school, then taking care of the farm animals, then driving 40 minutes to Olympia.  Then I set up my canopy, which is not a wimpy job, then unload a few hundred pounds of materials from my car.  I spend the day crouching on concrete, using my hand to nip and grout until it burns with pain, through lunch until my time runs out, then load it all back in the car, take the canopy down, and race back to my job as Farmer Mom.
*Excuse me for bragging, but I would like to mention that the car is a 1988 Toyota Corolla wagon with 342,000 miles on it - and counting.*

Monday and Thursday, I get an extra hour to work before racing home to meet the bus.  Fridays and Saturdays, I work up to 9 hours straight.  Even my volunteers, who work 2-3 days each week for shorter stretches are suffering severe aches and pains.

So, wouldn't you know it, this weekend I could feel a cold coming on.  I was dragging, so I took Monday off and got some rest.  On Tuesday, I wasn't quite recovered, but I was anxious because I had left two forms unfinished, wrapped in plastic.  I planned to do some grouting and to finish filling in one area.

I was frustrated to find that the forms had been unwrapped, and once again, pieces had been pried off.  I'm not sure I wrote last time, when someone bashed some of the stained glass and chipped pieces out.  And I think I just rolled my eyes every time I went to unwrap some earlier work, to find that someone stuck gum in the ungrouted section of the mosaic.  But this time, the pieces had been chipped off and scattered around the parking lot, and I felt so defeated I wanted to cry.

Just one example of damage done to the mosaic after hours.  There was a little glass foot on this fish tail.
Every time pieces are chipped off, I have to carve and scrape the thinset out to fit new pieces in.  Then, I can't grout until those are cured, so it can delay the project a couple of days.

I don't know who would do such a thing.  Most of the people who spend their days in that area are homeless, or living on the fringes, but they are not mean-spirited and I am on friendly terms with most of them.  There is a group of youth who band together and are not friendly toward me.  They occasionally send a messenger over to ask a pointed question such as, "So, who paid for this project?"  When I explain that it was funded by downtown businesses and commissioned by the City, they look very satisfied, but angry, and report back to the group.  In the mornings after damage has taken place, the City's signs asking people to respect the artwork will be torn off and flung to the side, and messages will be scrawled on the walls and the well saying, "Take back the well" and references to "anarchy."  Some of them have mentioned that they think improvements to the well amount to "gentrification."

These are the only clues I have.  It could just be kids on meth attracted to shiny things, in a destructive frame of mind.  But, it was pouring rain, blowing in sideways despite my canopy.  Lisandro and I were on a tarp that had started out dry, but eventually just gathered pools of water.  I was shaking so much from cold I kept dropping my pieces, and everything was sliding and dripping and drooping, including my stamina.

We actually got a lot done that day, but I couldn't bring myself to go back on Wednesday.  And I really had to pull myself up by my bootstraps to go in today, especially since it was raining again.

Lisandro has just finished wrapping the plastic with duck tape, and is ready to go home and drink hot tea.
But, Lisandro had brought duck tape on Tuesday, and the plastic stayed put.  So I put up the canopy and grouted the top of the bench - the part that had received the most abuse.  Once it is grouted, it is less vulnerable and people can comfortably sit on it.  As I worked, the sun came out.  There's a guy who plays guitar and sings a song about the well ("Come to the well and drink freely,  Come to the well, and be free.  Come to the well, and drink freely.  Come to the well and have a nice day!")  He played and sang.  A lot of people came by to thank me and express concern because they had heard about the damage.  Several more people said they would volunteer this weekend.  My cold symptoms disappeared.  Once again, I was excited about the project.

Tomorrow, we will start the final concrete structure - the biggest one.  I'm in the home stretch!  It's going to be a mild, sunny weekend and quite a few people have said they'll be joining me.  I guess I really just needed a couple of days off to get my groove back.


  1. Wow! I really feel for ya, Jenn! The vandalism part is so awful, and I can understand the feelings of defeat. But the part about having so many wonderful volunteers standing up for you, and coming out to help— in crappy weather— is heartwarming. I hope you do have some sunny, mild weather this weekend to warm your bones while working!