April 1, 2020

The Assurance of Perpetuity

• By John F. Chisholm •

I replaced the latticework on our front porch yesterday. The existing lattice had rotted. In fact, it was in the process of complete disintegration by the time I acted. I mention it because I installed that old latticework, too. Years ago. Yes, it was pressure-treated. The fasteners were galvanized. Everything I could think of to ensure its longevity was utilized. I even think that I did a reasonable installation job. I know that I tried. Hard.

In addition please note that the latticework itself is protected ― at least somewhat ― by the porch roof above it.

Never mind. All of that was insufficient.

I don’t keep the sort of diary or journal that sensible farmers and responsible homeowners maintain. It’s times like these that I wish I did. How long did that old latticework last? Twenty years?

I think that’s a reasonable guess.  No matter. It still didn’t last.

Even more unfortunately, that latticework isn’t alone. Recently I’ve caught myself redoing a number of jobs I completed previously. Re-shingling the barn appears almost an annual task. Like re-painting the house, imagination turns it into a perpetual chore. (It certainly feels as though I’ve painted this house every year that we’ve lived here.) Then again, I just replaced the footings on the woodshed. One more time. (Trying to prevent the frost from wrecking havoc with unheated buildings is a battle New Englanders have waged for generations.)

It feels as though I must be doing everything wrong, that I’m sleeping on the job or completely inept. The result? I’m certain that everyone notices whenever I replace something that I’ve replaced before. In fact, I can hear my children talking about it while I work; “Dad’s beginning to repeat himself.”

It’s true. I am. I’m replacing portions of this farm that I repaired years ago, telling myself that my efforts would last a lifetime. More.


Clearly I’m working with the wrong materials. While we’re thinking about that, please recall that I’ve had to repair my own stonewalls. Frequently.

As a result, I’ll go further: It’s certain that I’ll never reach permanence with inanimate materials however hard I try.

How odd that the daffodils, tulips and lilacs I planted years ago are still returning each year, larger and more prolific with every successive spring.

Why can’t I learn from that?

Life changes, new members arrive. Older models depart. It’s life itself that holds the only assurance of perpetuity. I think about that as I admire the new latticework on our front porch.