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Old North Rehabbing

A Strange Marriage

by Michael R. Allen

I could be doing anything right now. I could be writing a book, watching a movie, talking to a friend, taking a walk or be traveling.

Instead, I am scrubbing up after hours of work around the house. I have not had a moment to myself in weeks, and may not get the chance for weeks more. However, I am watching a building reverse a 120-year span of decay under my own direction, largely alone although experienced craftspeople have aided with masonry, carpentry and roofing.

What we can take into our own hands is where we build the most change in the world. Obviously, few people choose to take much into their hands — and many of us end up with far too much in our hands. Yet hesitate to think of what would become of the world if I did not assume this momentary burden. I hope that others do the same, but I know that I can’t make them. Not everyone could take up the task of rehabbing a large building with no supervision and little assistance, even if he or she wanted to do so. I’m not sure if the cororllary is that those who can should do so, but I note that those who can most often must do so.

When my neck starts to ache beyond the limits of medicinal Schlafly, I try to think about how each gesture composes the larger plot of one house renwed and revitalized in a neighborhood that is renewing itself in a great city that is seeing a multitude of actions like my own add up to a resurgence of energy…

(Cynically, I could note that these hundreds of hours of labor are punishment for that one moment when I realized that I wanted to live in this house. To want something is always an arrogant proposition.)

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