There’s a house in my neighborhood that has been half-painted for as long as I’ve lived here (more than a year). I walk by it every day on my way to work, and as much as I want to I can’t tear my eyes away: it sits upon a squat bluff, staring down at me and grating on my aesthetic sensibility like double-aught sandpaper on skin, this thing left undone.
I thought a first that the house might be abandoned, but about six months ago I saw someone out front, painting! He was working on one of the columns on the porch and I remember thinking, “Man, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.”
The next day, he wasn’t there, and it certainly didn’t seem like he’d done much work—or any. I have seen an experienced painter finish a house in a couple of days.
He never showed up again.
Several months ago I was surprised to see about two dozen bags of mulch in the driveway, along with several brand new tools—a hoe, a rake, and a spade. I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes. Sure enough, there was someone in the yard (not the would-be painter) wearing new work gloves and wielding the new hoe with no skill whatsoever. It was obvious his intent was to weed the entire yard, but that was a big undertaking, even for me (and I’ve done weeding), and I could see right away that for him it would be an impossible one.
Sure enough, the next morning’s walk revealed that he had given up the weeding and just started laying down the mulch, seemingly without thought for symmetry or even logic. Weeds stuck out everywhere. When I walked home that afternoon, he was close to finished. About two bags remained and he was sweatily emptying another one. It seems he had finally decided on starting the mulch at roughly the top of the hill and spreading it down to the sidewalk—where, for lack of any retaining structure, it spilled out onto the concrete.
When I walked by the next morning, the job was done—save a completely untouched section of weeds about six feet by four feet. Apparently, the mulch had run out; I knew it would never be completed. I was right. Several months later and the weed-filled section remains, poking me in my artistic eye.
Seeing it and the half-painted house this morning made me think of things left unfinished. I think I will take it as a daily reminder to finish what I start.