Finding forgotten treasures


If I’ve been quiet lately, it’s because I’m up to my ears with projects out of my comfort zone. I’m working with Colorado Art Ranch to get our guest cottage and Richard’s shop ready for the Terraphilia Artist/Writer Residency program beginning later this year.

Working with Art Ranch isn’t outside my comfort zone; it’s the remodeling and renovation part of the “getting ready.” Design of built spaces was Richard’s thing. I paid bills, kept him semi-organized, chose colors and dreamed landscaping. I don’t have the “object manipulation gene” he and Molly share that allows them to see intuitively how physical objects and buildings work.

Fortunately, I do have knowledgeable family and friends. Our nephew Andrew Cabe, who picked up the woodworking branch of Richard’s art meme, is finishing the trim and cabinet work in the guest cottage (and when he’s done there, he’ll tackle the main house) in trade for several of the big shop machines that won’t be needed for the artist residency (a planer, jointer, mortising machine, and a bandsaw). I get a finished house and Andrew gets a start on the woodshop of his dreams. Seems like a good trade.


Andrew lives five hours away, works as a seafood-monger, and has two kids. So his time is limited. Still, in three long days last week–with the help of his mom, Bonnie, and a contractor friend, Bob Spencer, he cased and framed all eight doors, plus three windows, and milled and put up all the baseboard in the cottage, including making fancy posts for the bullnose corners. (That’s the cottage living room with new trim in the photo above, and one of the baseboard corners below.)


The bigger project–and scarier to me–is finishing the renovation of Richard’s historic brick shop building, built in 1902 as a millwork shop for a long-defunct lumber company. It had been essentially abandoned for several decades before we bought.

Richard spent about ten years (in between building our house next door) getting its structure in good shape, but never finished. Still to come: installing a ceiling (did I mention the building is 1,700 square feet, and the ceiling is two stories high at the center beam of the timber frame?), some rewiring (ditto the above) and repairing the aging plumbing. (That’s the shop entrance in the photo below, under the old lumber-drying shed on the side of the building. You can see the front with its high brick gable in the first photo of the post, behind Richard and the sculpture he is securing on a trailer.)


Before we can even start on the renovation (which will be done mostly by volunteers, and will likely bankrupt my small hoard of shop-repair cash), there’s a LOT of cleaning and organizing to do. My love was a pack rat. He collected old industrial metal and gears for sculptures, saved scraps of wood to use for levers and fulcrums and chocks in moving boulders, and seemingly hoarded every piece of paper that came across his desk in the almost-three decades I knew him.

Molly and her sweetie Mark Allen tackled the six four-drawer filing cabinets last fall, hauling 65 pounds of paper to a shredder. That cleared two file cabinets. Then there’s his office, and the boxes and boxes of books. I’ve been going through shelves and drawers and cabinets, all coated with years of dust, sorting out what can be saved from what can be recycled and what is simply trash. That’s where the “treasures” of the title come in.

Tucked into every pile and file, whether it’s outdated supply catalogs or receipts, are mementos: love notes  I wrote, sketches for sculptures, jottings of favorite quotes, cards from Molly, and in one case, a whole folder of precise pen-and-ink botanical illustrations I sketched for my newspaper columns thirty years ago, and had completely forgotten. (I think he was saving them to frame… someday.)

Rsketch Rcrosssection
The sorting-through is slow work. And hard on my tender heart. When I come to things like the shirt-pocked-sized notebook containing the sketch for a Craftsman-style pergola and bridge he planned to build in our front yard (in the scans above), I dust them off, read them, and then must wipe my tears and blow my nose before continuing on.

I miss my love–his brilliant mind, his soaring creativity, the inborn affection for this numinous Earth that showed in all his work, and most of all, his company. I will always miss him. And now I have a growing stash of poignant–and dusty–treasures to remind me of why I do.