Discretion, Valor, All That

roof 0720
This is the east side; I went up the west side, but this way you can see the top of the kitchen solar tube, which is still functional.

I may have succeeded at self-preservation yesterday, but I failed miserably at self-reliance, and I’m a little bummed about that.

As you may know, around the turn of the year —  almost resolution-like — I read about a new makers’ space here in Gunnison and rushed out to become a member, since Lynn and I weren’t even managing to hang curtains in our new house without putting massive holes in the drywall.

After paying a horrendous amount for a library I still don’t love, or even look at, particularly, my goal was to quit being quite so reliant on others for assistance in all things home maintenance.

I’m not going wild with this, and there are still some pretty clear lines: I am never going to mess with plumbing. Many years ago, after Lynn’s mother and mine both assured us that replacing a toilet was no big deal, we attempted this ourselves. And then had to call in Jim Barry — and it was still a three-day project. The toilet was welded to some iron flange, portions of the floor had to be cut away . . . it was ugly and a clear argument against do-it-yourself.

But if I could get to the point where every little thing, like curtains, did not have to wait for overly busy, under-enthused and extremely pricey handypeople — well, that seemed a laudable goal.

So I joined the makers space and produced a bookcase that I do like looking at. Before my next woodworking class could start, Corona came calling, and the space was shut down. In the meantime I developed a long list of projects, some of them repair related, that I felt confident I could manage even though I don’t really know how to go about any of them.

For instance, looking at my old library which is now garage shelving, I noticed molding on the front of shelves as a small decorative feature. If I finish off the top and sides of the new library with molding, that might jazz it up.

But there are corners to cut, literal ones, not figurative, and while one of my shop teachers was explaining how to go about measuring and setting the 45-degree angles, the other said he would come over and help me do this on-site. But since then I haven’t found much time to work on this project or any others.

Yesterday, however, I got the molding stained. I am now ready to learn to cut corners. In a literal sense.

Flush with the success of managing the staining — it’s the little victories that add up, right? — I decided it was time to go on the roof.

We had an out-of-town friend stop by a couple of weeks ago, and in the process of showing her around the house, I realized the solar tube in my bathroom was completely dark.

I don’t know how long it had been like that. You’d think it ought to be something I’d notice right away, this limitation of light, and maybe it was a new development. Either way, it was an unwelcome development.

My first thought, I’ll admit, was to call Dusty, our contractor who installed the tube, which is essentially a skylight in round fashion. My second thought was, This will cost us $500 at a minimum. It doesn’t seem like it should, but it will.

I determined to look at it myself, first, to see if the repair is something I can manage either on my own or with assistance from my woodshop teachers. From inside the bathroom I figured out how to take the diffuser off.

The pile of what I assumed were dead moths turned out to be live as they flew out of the tube, and I could feel an intermittent wash of warmed air blow down, but because this tube is angled to get it to the south-facing pitch of the roof, I couldn’t see to the top.

Everything I saw looked right — shiny aluminum walls all where they belonged. I washed moth goo off the diffuser and replaced it, since it seems as though there must be some opening higher up. Which meant going up on the roof.

As a youngster, I gave no thought at all to going on the roof. We even went up repeatedly one winter onto Bartlesons’ roof next door, jumping off into the deep snow in the back. As I got older, I ran into a lot more first- and second-hand accounts of mayhem and even death from people falling off roofs, and it made me more cautious.

But I still didn’t really have a problem going up on a roof, doing so just a couple of years ago to shovel off snow.

But this is a new house and a new roof, and while I didn’t think it would be any bigger deal than getting onto my old roof, it was.

It’s higher from the ground, for one, and while Lynn and I thought we’d asked for a similar pitch, this one definitely has more of a rise, as I discovered when I got on it.

I picked a spot that seemed to offer the easiest access, where a couple of roof lines meet between the house and the garage. I had to extend the ladder farther than expected — the first indication that all might not go well.

Getting onto it wasn’t bad, but that’s when it started to look steep. Mount Everest steep, I’m certain. I monkey-walked on hands and toes up the valley, using the ridges of the metal to propel me up to where the roof changed direction. Unfortunately so did the metal ridges, which now would be running parallel to my direction of travel, offering no backstop should my foot slip.

I was about 6 feet away from the top of the solar tube, out of sight on the other side of the ridgeline. But it might as well have been the Hillary Step, the last major obstacle on Everest (Chomolungma).

I didn’t even think about it very long. Suddenly, paying someone $500 seemed far more prudent than trying to make it up to the top, where I was still going to have to examine the solar tube, perhaps letting go of the roof to twist or tug on the top of the tube.

There are climbers — the ones who live — who get to the Hillary Step and turn around, just shy of the highest point in the world. Their goal is in sight, but they realize the risk they are incurring, and they turn around. Others — the ones who die — are so desperate to reach their goal that they keep going. It isn’t that they fall off the Step, but the exertion in such extreme altitude takes them past what their bodies can manage, and they die on the way back down.

I turned and slid on my butt back to the ladder. It was only once I was on the ground that some regret set in. Six feet, after all. It seemed kind of weenie, there on the ground, but also a bit shaky, since it turned out to be a riskier propositition than I had anticipated.

If I knew what I was doing with a rope safety harness I might try it again, but I believe, in my journey to self-reliance, that I have found another point, like plumbing, that is just best left to the professionals.

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