Barry Smith: Irrelativity | AspenTimes.com

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

After months and months and months of working on renovating this new old house – after breakdowns and frustrations and inspirations and exhaustions and breakthroughs and defeats and victories, it is “done.”

For what seems like the better part of a year, my life has been a stream of long days of power tools and heavy lifting and impossibly steep learning curves and several million tiny decisions about things that I never even knew had to be decided on. Bathroom tile, stain color, light-switch placement, trim style – I always thought this sort of stuff just happened. I didn’t know you actually had to, you know, decide it.

But it was good. It was all good. And even better … it’s all in the past now because the house is “done.”

By “done,” I mean “not even close to done” but done enough to sleep in.

We’ve been living across the street with Christina’s dad while the renovation was under way, so we’ve yet to spend an actual night in our house-in-progress. But Jan. 1 seemed like the night. Oh, the significance of it all.

So, that night, the first night of 2012, we settle into our new house, make dinner in our own kitchen and fall asleep in our own bed in our own bedroom. And it is so gloriously surreal. What was a full-on construction site just a few days earlier is now an actual room, with walls and a floor and a bed and all that room-like stuff. Our room. Our house. The new year begins, and I drift off to sleep happily.

Wow. We did it. We really did it.

Two hours later, I’m half-awake and slowly opening my eyes wider. There’s some anxiety welling up in me. Maybe we’ve moved in too early. I begin to hazily go over all the things that still need to be done. The attic still isn’t completely insulated – that’s a full day’s work. Several electrical outlets are dangling menacingly from the wall – what if the cat licks one of them? Or what if I lick one? Not likely but still a possibility. Have we moved in too soon? Was my insistence on starting the new year in the house a mistake? Why am I so annoyed? What’s going on? This should be a glorious moment, yet …

Hey, what’s that noise?

Sounds like … wind chimes. That’s what’s awakened me. Wind chimes. But not delicate, tinkly, soothing wind chimes. These wind chimes are jarring and obnoxious, like somebody pounding out a distress signal on two pieces of jagged, hollow metal. Help! Help! We’re trapped down here! Clang! Clang! Clang!

There’s a coal train that passes through town on occasion – sometimes at noon, sometimes 4 a.m. – and no matter the time of day, it blows its horn at every one of the dozen or so intersections. And I love it. Even though it wakes me (and probably everyone else in town) when it passes through in the wee hours, I find it pleasant. Mournful, wistful, soothing; kind of the way I imagine it sounds when I play my harmonica. I’ve loved that train whistle since we first started visiting this town 15 years ago, and I actually find myself smiling when it wakes me from a deep sleep.

But these wind chimes … well, these chimes sound the way it actually sounds when I play the harmonica. They are grating and obnoxious, and I know from the very first clang that there’ll be no talking myself into ever liking this noise. These chimes will forever only annoy.

Oh no. Oh no! My neighbors have lame wind chimes!

And it gets real windy here, too. All that work just to finally settle into a house where I will never again be able to sleep without a pillow over my head. I guess I was too busy making my own noise during the day to ever notice these chimes-of-Satan rattling right next door. But I’m sure noticing them now, wide awake at 2 a.m.

And now what? I can’t exactly head over tomorrow morning and say, “OK, we’re all moved in, so let’s go over a few things. First of all, those wind chimes … ” And to make it even worse, these neighbors are really cool, so “accidentally” silencing their chimes when they’re away isn’t an option.

The wind eventually settles, and I fall back asleep. I’m up early the next morning and carefully examining the neighbor’s house. No sign of the dangling sonic barbed wire. Maybe they take them in each morning. I turn back to my own house, and there, hanging on the shed, is a set of wind chimes, obviously left over from the previous occupant.

My wind chimes!

Hanging from my house!

Never thought I’d be so happy to realize that I’m the obnoxious neighbor.

Now, where did I leave those wire cutters?


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