Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Painting Canoes with Martha Stewart

My neighbours must imagine that the house where I live is full of night owls, since the lights are often on long past midnight. They’re sometimes still on as the sun rises in the eastern horizon, accompanied by the flickering light of the television. While I’m sometimes still awake deep into the night, engrossed in a good book or watching a classic movie, more often than not everyone in my household is sound asleep, even when the house is aglow like an all-night convenience store.

If anyone peered through the window, they might see one or more of us snoozing in the living room, with only the faint rumble of snoring to confirm that we were asleep and not actually dead. Last night, my wife fell asleep watching the Food Channel—not that cooking seems to interest her particularly—while I stretched out on the sofa. I had intended to switch to the news but, after settling in comfortably, I noticed that the remote control was not on the coffee table and I was simply too lazy to get up and find it. She who had the remote next to her was not to be roused, so in a few minutes I fell fast asleep. The television continued to beam its messages to my unconscious self.

Much to my surprise, Martha Stewart appeared, demonstrating how to create elegant, antiqued shelves on which to display ornaments and mementoes. I watched carefully as she revealed techniques for creating different effects on a variety of materials. Then suddenly, as if by magic, we found ourselves painting canoes—Martha, me and a small group of unfamiliar disciples.

I was separated from the group, finding myself alone at one end of the vessel while Martha took charge at the other. It was obvious that they needed her careful guidance, whereas I was competent to work alone at my end. Martha had us paint the gunwales bright red using bristle brushes and, finding myself far ahead of the slow group, I continued painting down the side of the canoe. I heard Martha utter a muffled instruction or two but I just kept painting and, in short order, my end of the canoe glistened like a water-borne fire-truck.

That’s when I noticed that Martha had her crew painting the canvass a deep green. Oh my God! There I was painting canoes with Martha Stewart and I had gotten the colour wrong! Not only that, but she was looking in my direction. I grabbed a paint roller and began slathering green paint over the red layer but everything was turning brown, so I kept applying more and more until green paint was flowing down the side of the canoe like wax on an overactive candle. By then, Martha was headed in my direction while I kept working frantically.

I awoke to see Rachel Ray on the television, stirring some vegetarian dish and commenting on its deep green hues. Thank goodness! Rachel Ray had saved me from Martha Stewart. I’d rather paint canoes with Rachel anyway, because she would understand it if I made a mistake. She would forgive me. Then we would have a good, hearty laugh together and eat a tasty snack.

I am generally inclined to think of dreams as random thoughts or the organic equivalent of a computer memory dump. I know that my dreams often seem to be influenced by what’s being said on the radio, which is usually set to come on some time before my alarm rings. At other times, I think our dreams offer us profound insights about who we are—our fears and concerns, our values and delights. Painting canoes with Martha Stewart reminds me that too often I am inclined to perfectionism and that, when I get things wrong, I try to correct my mistakes on my own, before anyone notices, rather than simply admitting to them and then seeking help from others. But none of us is perfect and when we pretend as if we are, fashioning ourselves into idols for all to see, we inevitably find ourselves ankle-deep in green paint. Wouldn’t it be better to let the first coat dry, have a good laugh, and then paint over it another day? And what could be better than enjoying a tasty snack while we wait?

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