Window Restoration A Practice in Mindfulness

Our most recent housemate moved out rather suddenly recently. It wasn’t because anything bad happened. He had stumbled across an opportunity that was just too good to pass up so we sent him off with our well wishes. With the room newly vacated I decided it was a good opportunity to restore the windows in there. This wasn’t originally on my to-do list for the spring, but, once we fill the room again I don’t know when I will get another chance.

I have been working off and on a bit with a local woman who does window restoration. It has been amazing to be able to learn, from a professional with years of experience, the ins and outs, and dos and don’ts of this craft. I remember coming close to an emotional breakdown the first time I tried to pull a window’s sashes. Over the years everything had been painted and this encasement had locked it all in place. Once I had chipped the paint away on all the edges I was faced with another impediment, the zinc weather stripping. Removing sashes with zinc weatherstripping had seemed as enigmatic for myself as solving a rubik’s cube. However, with the guidance and practice that I have recently been receiving I was able to pull the sashes in both windows of this upper-floor room and barely broke a sweat.

Window with sashes removed.

The windows in this room had been painted a dark blue at some point on top of the off-white that they were originally. This additional layer of paint was enough to almost completely fill in and obscure the crisp lines and edges in the details of the interior muntins. The only way to do this right was going to involve removing all of the glass and stripping the sashes down to bare wood. While the end result will be beautiful. This is probably going to add at least another 8-10 hours to the project.

Stripping the interior muntins.

Like I had said earlier, restoring this set of windows was not on my spring todo list. Nor was I particularly looking forward to it. In the past I have found doing windows to be tedious and slow going. Between the stripping and sanding, glazing and painting it feels like there are a million different steps, and that is before you get to prepping the jambs and rehanging the sashes. The weather has been quite wonderful lately as well, and coming off of winter I was really looking forward to spending my time outside cleaning out the gardens and getting the patio ready for barbecues and evening cocktails. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to this interruption.

The workshop.

I decided try and make an opportunity out of this inconvenience. In a recent interview on The Diane Rhem Show she had the coauthors of a book called The Path on. In this episode they talked about ancient Chinese philosophy and this idea of being able to change yourself through ritual. While I am still reading the book now, restoring theses windows seemed like a great opportunity to practice patience and mindfulness. I find that I have a problem with getting too far ahead of myself. Of thinking ahead towards all of the things I want and need to do, sometimes to the point where I find it to be debilitating and am incapable of focusing on anything. I want to learn to focus and be in the moment while working on tasks and projects, to take joy in my work and to build a relationship with it. The length and tedium of this project was perfect for practicing this. While it is essentially a mind game I am playing with myself at this point, I am hoping that through practice I will be able to incorporate this mindset into myself as an eventuality. Even now, in moments where I am capable of it in practice, there is a happiness and contentment that comes with it.

I am halfway through stripping the sashes right now. I have found a couple minor repairs that need to be done, but otherwise they look lovely beneath all that paint. While I am learning to enjoy the process more, it will still be great to see them completed and in place. Alright now, back to work.

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