Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Blanketed By Words

My walls and ceiling are now filled with news: ground newspaper insulation.

My husband says, “I hope it’s good news,” but given the sheer volume—over thirty bales—we pumped into three downstairs rooms in the past two days, odds are we have encased bad news, world news, classified ads, display ads, obituaries, advice columns, op-ed pieces, local interest, and sports reporting along with some good news: births, weddings, graduations, honors, and awards.

Millions of jumbled words ground to a pulp tumbled into a hopper, shot through a long hose snaking through our house, and filled the channels between studs and cement, sheetrock and framing.

Precious thoughts that reporters and copyeditors and advertisers and ordinary people created and penned and typed and typeset and printed and mailed were read over coffee, on the bus, in waiting rooms, then tossed not into the trash, but into recycling bins, and now insulate my home.

It was a messy two days. My husband and I wore glasses and facemasks, long-sleeves and pants, and turned the leaf-blower on one another when we broke for lunch and dinner, sending cascades of paper fibers flying through our backyard.

I stood outside at a work-station my husband assembled, breaking bales of gray paper mulch flecked with pink (the entertainment section?) and yellow (maybe there are phone books in the mix) into chunks, feeding them into a hopper where blunt blades churned them into small bits and spit them into a long white flexible hose my husband dragged through the house.

He stood on a rolling scaffold, shooting the insulation into channels of our walls and ceiling, poking his head into ceiling openings to check his progress, to gauge when to shut off the feed with the remote control he rigged.

The walls and ceilings filled, the news burst through other openings we thought we’d sealed (like our laundry room), and our furnishings and tools were coated in dust and our floor was littered with soft gray fluff, reminding me of the episode of Friends when the friends arrive at a beach house to find the floor covered in sand.

Much of it I scooped into a Hefty bag and ran through the machine again. The rest I sucked up with a shop-vac. I never tire of training the vac-wand at a layer of newspaper debris or sawdust and watching it lift from the surface in neat rows, as if magnetized, leaving a clean swath behind.

For all that, only once did I come across any legible writing. A small piece of white paper that apparently slipped by quality control, with the letters ds in ten point serif font, Times I think. It must be the end of a word: deeds, needs, seconds?

The rest of the writing remains a mystery, as do the thousands of stories that now inhabit the bones of my home. I will have to imagine their content and meaning. But this I know, in the short cold days of winter those stories, reduced to mere grounds, will warm us.

In this home we are restoring, I am blanketed by words.