Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Stairs

I had the devil of a time writing today's blog.  I've got another creative project going of the woodworking variety and it has a deadline so I was distracted. I tried all my usual tricks:  I mowed for an hour or so, waiting for the muse to hit.  Then I did laundry to empty my mind.  Finally, in desperation I pulled out the "Things to Ponder" box.  Yes, I have one.  Here's what it looks like:


It's pretty full so I started going through it.  The first three pieces of paper were old church bulletins with penciled scribbles that I couldn't read so I threw them away.  I found an old a Bar Mitzvah program. No scribbles but worth keeping.  Then a bilingual wedding invitation that I saved hoping to understand the way Hispanics do their names. On the invitation it says that Maria-Paula "dad's last name" "mom's last name" is marrying Chris Peavy.  Her mom is listed as "first name Salame de Carillo"  It looks like when Dad bites the dust the "de Carillo" disappears.  I'm not totally sure of that so don't quote me.
 
Then to my shock I found the piece of paper I grabbed when Ann Tubbs told me of her near death experience. She said she had been visited by a wise old crone who sat on the bed next to her and told her that she would need three things.  When Ann told me what the words were I wrote them down.  Now to my horror I see that the old crone told her FOUR things, not three: "Patience, Persistance, Innovation, and Knowing When to Let Go" I spoke a whole funeral eulogy based on the three words that didn't include Innovation.  Oops. 


Going through my Things to Ponder wasn't helping things.  Then I found something I started writing a while ago.  I spruced it up a bit.  Here it is.  Now I can go back to my woodworking project.

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I love stairs.

Humanity,  throughout it's long history has built some magnificent stairways that rival great art.  One of my greatest disappointments in life was losing my camera with the photos I had taken of the staircase in Naploeon's Tomb.  Well, not in the tomb.......there's probably only Napoleon in there.  But to give you an idea of how popular the guy was they built a whole building just to hold his tomb.  The building has two stories.  I can't remember a thing that was on the second floor.  I just remember the  cool stairway. It was huge and grand and maybe even a little gold.  I can't remember all the details-that's why I took a photo.  And I can't find a picture of it on the internet. It was wide with turns going in both directions as they rose.

It was a bit like the stairs you find in the Museum of Natural History at Fair Park in Dallas and the stairs at Grand Central Station.
Grand Central Station

My favorite stairways are always ones with a polished wooden rail that just reaches my hand.  I don't like them too high.  My local favorites are the stairs in Dallas Hall at SMU (marble) and the Perkins Chapel on the same campus (wooden but perfect handrails)

Then I like the old wooden ones that creak when you put your weight on each stair. And I love the feeling of heft as you switch your weight over to the other foot. 

I've always loved the one in Gone With the Wind where Rhett Butler carries Scarlett O'Hara in his arms up to their bedroom.  Hasn't every woman dreamed her man would do this?

The staircase at Monticello is magnificent in its simple and delicate pine.  I wonder if it has been replaced over the years because the house is so old and pine so soft.  The thought of stepping on wood Thomas Jefferson stepped in is totally cool. It's fairly narrow, not as big as the stairs at the Louvre where people could easily walk them ten abreast.

My friends with bad knees tell me they hate stairs.  Stairs are their enemy and cause them pain.  So, I try to temper my enthusiasm for stairs when I'm around them.  But I love the act of walking up stairs.  I know the ideal stairs are built with 7 inches of rise for 6 inches of run.  If you ever run into stairs that don't feel right it's probably because they got the rise and run messed up.

Of course, that standard is fairly modern. The ancient stairs leading to the Tower of London were too steep and  too small for Henry the 8th and barely big enough for me.  But it got you up there. The oldest stairs of all were rudimentary, built for a purpose, not art.

I usually love to climb the stairs unless they lead too high.  For someone who loves stairs I'm really not big on heights.  In fact, I'm scared to death of heights.  I think it has something to do with the fact that I can't fly. My husband, on the other hand, loves heights.
 
Beaven has climbed the stairs to all the standard monuments in the world like the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. When we were dating he called me once from atop WFAA-TV's broadcast tower.  It was so high that they needed an elevator.  He loved the view and noticed there was a phone there at the top so he called me.  I told him to quit making phone calls and hold on to with both hands.

The one time I sucked it up and made the climb was the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  You have to wonder why someone afraid of heights would climb something that was already in the process of falling down. But I did it.  The brochure said how many steps there were so I counted the steps to take my mind off my funeral arrangements. Counting steps became a mantra of  sorts:  Lift your foot, slide onto the step,  put your weight on that foot, raise your body, transfer to the other foot and do the same thing.  I noticed a little scratchy noise I made moving my feet into position.  Lift, slide, lift, slide.  The sand on my feet was rubbing against the Carrerra marbel.  The steps for the Tower of Pisa were made from the same marble Michaelangelo used to carve his greatest sculptures like the David and the Pieta.  You should know I am a huge Michaelangelo fan.  It occurred to me that in my scratching steps, in some small minute way, I was also sculpting Carrerra marble as Michaelangelo had.



 Alas, they're not building magnificent stairs anymore.  Since the Americans with Disabilities Act buildings need to have elevators if they're above one story and it's just easier to build an entrance without stairs. Stairways as art has fallen by the wayside.

I'm looking for one of those big coffee table books with photos of the world's greatest staircases.  Then maybe a check-off list in the back so I could spend the rest of my life checking each one off my bucket list before my knees give out.

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