Sacred Spaces

Rough Places Made Smooth

When we purchased this home of ours, five years ago next month, the sheet-rocked walls were heavily orange-peel textured, in most rooms painted the old-school Ace-bandage color of a pinkish tan, builder grade (which is to say, cheap and prone to flaking). What immediately followed the purchase was a series of profound personal and professional disruptions—on existential levels—and as part of our necessary DIY renovations of the house, I added a probably unnecessary but powerful meditation, one of tedious transformation: smoothing the interior walls of the first-floor rooms by hand-applying three successive thin layers of a joint-compound plaster with a rectangular trowel and hand buffing with a high-grit soft sanding block until I achieved what’s apparently known in the building trade as a Level 5 finish. I painted the smooth expanse a very pale gray—Balboa Mist—that shifts in the changing light to sometimes reveal its lavender self, sometimes its green, always an ephemeral lift of cloud. I completed the project about the same time a number of threats receded, and all throughout, I sought and welcomed the grace that allows “rough places to be made smooth.”