Columns and foundations
The first sign was the buckling. The second sign was the heel of my stiletto busting through. My porch is rotting. It deserves to, it has put in much work. First there was the fire in the 1930’s, and then decades of endless patch jobs. Like a woman who sees time marching across her face and has a standing appointment for Botox, my porch has a standing appointment with the carpenter to work on firming up pieces here and there. Losing my porch to weak wood is a mournful idea, the threat of losing my porch columns, which stand on the porch’s foundation is too much to bear. Columns on a southern porch are like pearls on a beautiful woman. They speak of grace, but only if there is grace to be found in the first place. They speak of strength, but only if there is strength to be found in the first place. My columns whisper of grace and strength, I trust them to speak my language. I trust them to speak my heart. They need good foundation.
My engineering Daddy showed up upon my mayday call. If there is a man alive who knows the engineering behind columns, the importance of weight bearing compacity, and what calamity is lingering, it is Paul V. Hall. Daddy reported to me we have a terminal situation. We have foundational rot. We have columns trying their best to stand firm upon this rot. You’d think the columns were pivotal, but my foundation was hurting. Foundation is the bigger issue here. Bless it, we got a mess. Just an unholy Southwest Georgia mess.
We called in the doctor. First Daddy tested his skill. Then I did. I didn’t want to hear about the man terms of such a project. I could not care less about joists and bracing and galvanized screws. I only want to know if my foundation will be steady and if my columns will be beauties. Tell me that. Tell me how I can trust this foundation to hold up against the elements. Tell me how I won’t come home to find one of my columns laid out in the road. Tell me how you are going to leave some of her bones because I prefer restoration over refurbishing. This porch and I have a history. I don’t want history to be lost. I get crazy sentimental over stories, and nothing and nobody tells a better story than a home. A historical home is a master at the art of story.
Doc let me tell my porch stories, of the porch parties held, of the people who gathered there, of Halloweens had, of courage explored and brokenness embraced. He then listened as I opined on holding onto the integrity of my home. I warned Doc my home does this thing—anytime she goes in for repairs you find out what she has been hiding all along. There are little hurts and aches she has bravely endured. She has hidden these little pains well. In taking on this porch, he was going to find the job bigger than expected. There would be things requiring extra work, extra time, extra expense. Of this, I have no doubt. I fought for her, and Doc listened. He got it. I decided to trust him.
My home, under attack by rot, did show Doc additional bruises along the way. The unknown aches and pains began to show their face. Doc takes it in stride. He keeps on working. He shows little fear as he travels from one old joist to another. He starts at the top, works his way to the foundation and then will build a new porch. Soon, I will have good foundations and my columns will win first prize in a beauty contest.
Rot is no joke. It isn’t a joke to a historic southern home, and it isn’t a joke to us. Have you ever been rotted? Life brought storms and poured its rain and you never managed to quite dry out? Maybe the sun shined too brightly upon you and you crumbled under the heat? Maybe nothing at all is to blame and time passing was the only requirement needed for rot to start. We all have a soft spot, somewhere that isn’t perfect. Humanity is all about having a soft spot. So how do we successfully address these spots and their potential for rot?
Perhaps we tell our story. Perhaps we find a Doc, a precious friend, who listens for what we are most concerned. Maybe we hear ourselves put into words what we find worthy. Maybe we admit those ugly aches and pains we so earnestly hide from the world. What if they aren’t ugly at all? What if someone sees them and says, “Oh thank God, me too!” Maybe revealing those bruises is the thing to set you free and simultaneously sets another free as well. Do you have the courage to be that vulnerable? Vulnerability is not for the weak. Vulnerability is not for those suffering from foundational rot.
Most importantly we learn to trust. We trust there is something fundamentally good about us. There is something sacred in us the elements aren’t allowed to touch. Have we gone looking for the good stuff, the sacred, or are we hyper-focused on our ugly and unhallowed? My Doc of the Porch took a remarkably interesting approach. He kept the good bones, just as I had asked. There was some good foundation that will forever tell of the story. He girded the original joists with new ones. I like that. I like stories to remain. I like Doc heard me say I find history worthy. I love Dr. Herschel Smith, his bride and generations of Smiths played on those boards. I love my favorite people have been held up by those boards. I love I mustered a dose of courage I never knew I had on those boards. I love God has shown up on those boards more times than I will ever be able to tell.
So, this I know: there will be bruises we hide from the world. There will be a fight against the rot of life. There will be bones of our stories, good and bad, left behind. If we are lucky, somebody will pick up those stories and hold them dear for generations. If we are vulnerable, bold and trusting enough, our columns will soar and sing with amazing grace. There is beauty in the column only because there is integrity in the foundation. Tell of your bruises, admit where you need help with the rot, keep your stories and welcome in the new. Your columns will be witness to your foundation. Admire and celebrate your columns. Remember, while your columns may win beauty contests, they will never outshine your foundation. Foundation is where the sacred is stored up.