Painting the Backyard Fence

I had one goal this summer: to paint the backyard fence. My motive was practical. I would practice ‘asset management’–fixing up what I already owned so as to extend the life of the asset and not spend a lot of money on something that could be restored with a couple of cans of paint.

But the result of my mundane and ordinary experience of painting the fence was different from what I expected. Far from being the boring, onerous job I’d anticipated, it became a soothing, repetitive act where I got to see minute-by-minute improvements. Dipping the brush in the paint, lightly scraping the brush on its side to get rid of the extra drips, and then slapping the paint up and down on the dry boards became a pleasure.

Watching paint dry’ has become a cliché for a boring routine in our busy society. But what if it is really, secretly, quite interesting? What if painting a fence buys your busy modern brain some time to remain in one place and focus on one thing instead of several? What if standing next to the fence in the backyard gives you a few meditative, quality moments of time with little environmentalist birds who stop by to see what it is you are doing and scold you for it? What if it gives you the chance to look up at the blue, blue sky and think of your place in the universe, and the realization comes to you that one day you won’t be here to paint a fence? What then?

Do you paint faster? With more intensity? Maybe. Maybe not.

As someone who normally works on projects that can take anywhere from a month to a year or more to complete, the almost instantaneous feedback of painting the fence was heady stuff indeed.

And the end result? I liked it. The dark green, leathery leaves of the giant swordferns in my backyard now stood out against the warm, red cedar color of the wooden fence flanking them on three sides. And the orangey-red geraniums peeking out here and there from under the fern fronds looked especially bright.

I had created Art.

Theresa Scott is a writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. Little environmentalist birds live in her backyard.

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10 responses to “Painting the Backyard Fence

  1. What a wonderful way to look at it. Yes, slowing down the rapid pace of this modern life could be just the thing to mull over the beauty of the world. Hmm, perhaps I need to find a fence to paint.

  2. Great observations…
    how a simple mundane chore can help you switch off from your troubles, back in feb/march i had a very stressfull few weeks, so i taught myself to knit, nothing fancy just plain stitching, i found it a great distraction and produced a lovely blanket. 🙂

  3. I love work that lets my mind float, like your fence painting. I come up with some of my best ideas during those times. And you painted a lovely picture of those moments. Welcome to Over The Backyard Fence, Theresa!

  4. Congratulations on getting your fence painted. For me the satifaction is being able to do a task like this and knowing I did it and it’s done. This past September, I got our small cedar deck re-stained and I had a big part in painting the house, carport and two large storage sheds. Oh what a job that was! Different friends gave us a couple hours of help during the process and it was fun to visit and paint at the same time. And the best thing~~Mother Nature was generous with sun and warm weather during those days of painting.

  5. In this busy world stopping to savor the moment takes the effort of setting the priority to do it. I enjoyed the link to the Pacific NW you put in.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Who would have thought so many of us enjoy painting… and knitting, too! Savoring the moment is what we do… Thank you for all your comments. I feel so very welcomed by this community. Thank you!

  7. What a glorious way to look at what is normally a task. I am a painter, dabbling in the odd little landscape or two and find painting so good for the soul and helps me relax. I have been tempted to paint our garden fence with a scenic view or with rambling roses but do not my husband would approve. A pity the fence is too long to be able to surprise him a fait accompli one day. At least it would look interesting during the drab winter both. Lovely post, Theresa and looking forward to more.

  8. Great post, Theresa, and welcome! I find painting very meditative and enjoy the down time to reflect and let my hectic brain slow down. Congrats on getting the fence painted and on your work of art!

  9. Valerie J. Patterson

    First, welcome Theresa! Hope you enjoy your stay here. The ladies are quite lovely.

    Second, I enjoyed your post, and am so glad you had a reflective time painting instead of merely seeing it as a chore that had to be done. It really is the best approach…and the most rewarding! I love when that happens!! 😛

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