Tiny Gold Squares: A Post from 2011


This post was originally written in 2011. As I face new projects and challenges today, it’s good to remember where I’ve been.

Tiny Gold Squares, Mission Accomplished

I am pleased to report that my quixotic home renovation project, the gold wall, is finished. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I set out to paint one wall in our new bedroom gold this year. Not finding gold wall paint, I turned to craft paint. A tiny bottle, a tiny brush and patience helped me in my task to paint every little square of our textured wallpaper a shimmering gold. One by one by one. When I started the project I took it as a metaphor for progress; for tackling large journeys one baby step at a time. Having recently completed the project, and in light of some current challenges with other endeavours, I can attest to the deep truth of the Tiny Gold Square metaphor.

First, some facts and figures. The wall took me about 3 months of off and on work. That means grabbing an hour here, a half hour there, a couple hours on this evening while watching a movie and so on. I would have gone crazy to do this work in one go. I’d guess at around 20 hours by the time it was done. I suppose I’ve got nothing on Michelangelo. Second, the number of squares painted. They’re tricky to count, because while they do form a grid, and I do know how to multiply, there are features in the wall (like a vent) and some of the squares are cut in half (or worse, in thirds). All told, about 1160 squares were painted by me, by hand, to finish this wall. Eleven HUNDRED and sixty folks. If you can’t brag about a feat like this, then what have you got?

I have finished this project deep in the minutia of another. I am producing and recording the Bridge Songs album this year, instrument by instrument, vocal take by vocal take, participant by participant, track by track. We are getting the job done 30 minutes here, and hour of guitar work there, a couple hours for vocals one day and a full day for drums on weekend. Bit by bit. Square by square.

This weekend, the impending weight of this project loomed large casting an ominous shadow over my vision for what we could accomplish. I began to see what was not done and got quite scared. I panicked a bit. I took in the whole. I forgot that a wall full of Tiny Gold Squares was not painted in a day.

I am happy to say that I shared this frustration with my team, and several people stepped up to lend a hand. Sometimes there are just too many “squares” for one person, and that’s when community gets really magical. When each person takes a batch of “squares” and applies their handiwork. I am looking forward to looking over to my right, as I paint my squares, and seeing a row already finished, by some other helper. That is encouraging. That keeps us going. That makes large projects possible. That is progress.

I’ve learned a lot from my Tiny Gold Squares, and as I face more “real” or “practical” projects than my big gold wall, my wall speaks wisdom to me. It shines for me to illuminate the sometimes dark path of a large, intensive work load.

And so today I move forward. Square by square, little by little, day by day, until we are finally done and have the chance to sit back and bask in the glow of our work well done.