Our house painter came a few weeks ago to give the bricks and siding a fresh coat of color, and putty and paint the windows to give them courage against the coming cold.
The house was red when we bought it two decades ago, but we lightened it to the color of wheat, and now its newest shade is a kind of gray, like khaki dusted faintly with ash. We’re growing older within a home that was already ripe with years when we moved in. Each time my wife and I have repainted, our decorating scheme has become quieter, I think. Middle age tends to move us toward the comforts of conformity, the impulse to blend within a neighborhood rather than stand apart from it. Maybe that’s what true maturity brings, this deepening recognition that we belong to something larger than ourselves.
The only real eye-popper in the new paint job is the door on the front porch, which is light blue touched by turquoise. It’s about the same color as the cereal bowls that greet us over breakfast — a sight so cheerful that my wife decided to duplicate it for the entrance to the house.
I would like to thank The Advocate for Danny Heitman's column. He is a wonderful writer, and…
I suppose it’s not every day that a customer brings a cereal bowl to the paint store as a point of reference. The other dividend of middle age, I guess, is the sense that while it’s great to fit in, we don’t always need to. There’s less anxiety about what others think — and the liberating awareness that most people aren’t thinking of you at all.
I flirted briefly with the notion of painting the door Almanac Yellow, which is my name for the light, lemony hue that brightens the cover of each year’s Old Farmer’s Almanac. A new edition of this year’s almanac arrived a couple of weeks ago, bearing its ancient and fanciful promise of an ordered world where everything happens for a reason, and right on schedule.
There are planting tables detailing the best times to put beans or beets or broccoli into the ground, and charts revealing when Mercury or Venus will appear best in the sky, and helpful tutorials on the gestational cycles of sows, cows and dogs.
Within the pages of the almanac each fall, I dwell for a while in the bright kingdom of certainty, where there are no riddles too dark to resolve, no problems that defy the seemingly limitless power of human ingenuity.
In a recent newspaper essay, George Ball, of the Burpee Seed Co., writes to remind his fello…
I emerge from the chapters reluctantly, since closing the almanac returns me to the messier planet I actually inhabit.
It’s been a strange season, as concert patrons gather for music and end up dead for their trouble, and hurricanes subject us to an endless game of meteorological roulette.
That’s the other thing about middle age. It brings the news that even with experience, the world can seem no less confusing than when you were young.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter @Danny_Heitman.