Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Layered Look

My husband and I own an old house. It was built in the 20's, and ever since we bought it about six and a half years ago, we've been renovating, remodeling, and restoring. This weekend it was time to work in the living room. More specifically, it was time to work on the living room ceiling. At some point in our home's long history some Einstein thought it would be a good idea to cover all of the original plaster ceilings with acoustic tiles. We've been methodically going through and removing the tiles in order to expose the orginal plaster beneath. For the most part, this process has been a fairly simple one. Remove the old tiles, patch a few holes, and paint. Wa-la, beautiful, authentic ceilings.

The living room was a whole different story. My husband removed the aucoustic tiles and found another layer of insulation boards beneath. For a brief moment, we thought about drywalling over them, as each board was about two feet wide by four feet wide and held in place by, I kid you not, at least 20 nails. Big three inch nails. But we felt strongly about keeping the original integrity of the house, and that meant working our way down to the plaster beneath. So, we dug in. Each board came off in pieces about the size of a paperback book, and then each nail had to be pried out of the plaster. My husband had the joy of removing the tiles, and I had the joy of gathering their remains and disposing of them. Once the tiles were removed, we uncovered what I swear is a layer of wallpaper on the ceiling, but my husband disagrees. (I think he may be in denial!) He's working today to patch the many holes left by the giant nails, and soon we'll have a beautiful ceiling and can move on to the rest of the room (painting, furnishing, decorating...the fun stuff.)

All of the layers got me to thinking. It made me realize that a book is made of many layers as well. As authors, we create these layers to add depth to our story through the characters, setting, and plot. As readers, you work your way through these layers to get to the heart of the story. To get to the emotions that are woven and layered throughout the tale. And while adding these layers can often be hard work, getting to the end result is richly gratifying. Along the way ideas that seemed great at the time need to be discarded, and sometimes we write things that are interpreted differently than we intended by our readers. But when I as an author or you as a reader get to the "happily ever after" part, it's so wonderful to whisper a sigh of contentment at the beauty that was revealed under all those layers.

Until next time,

Debra St. John

1 comment:

Morgan Mandel said...

Now if only I had the attitude that painting was fun. We could use a coat of paint in our house, but the idea of moving stuff around and then smelling the paint afterwards keeps putting us off.
Morgan Mandel