June 19, 2017

Painting a Sentence by Eunice Matchett

Spring is such a lovely season, but along with all its loveliness comes a truckload of work. Each year I do one major project beyond the normal planting and weeding. This year, my major undertaking was painting the fence.

As I evaluated the weathered boards, my mind wandered to my writing projects that were weeks behind schedule. From there, my thoughts zoomed into sentence structure and my unpainted fence morphed into a sentence.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with the fence. It served its purpose by offering privacy, keeping the neighbourhood dogs out, and most of the time, my cats in. But it was drab. And boring. Just like a first draft sentence.

I went to work pulling out branches that had grown through the cracks between the boards much the same way I slash goes without saying words in a sentence. The fence appeared taller, but dry leaves and brittle pine needles littered the two-by-fours to which the boards were nailed. As I brushed away the dead foliage it reminded me of how the over use of fluffy words and words ending with ing or ly cluttered a sentence, making it difficult to comprehend.  This done, I checked all the boards to make sure their nails were still holding them fast. It made me think of how necessary conjunctions are to hold a sentence together.

Now, I’m ready for the paint. But what kind of paint? Just as a sentence requires precise words, my fence needs the right paint. The clerk in the local hardware store showed me exactly what I needed. Then, dressed in old tube top and shorts, a can of paint in one hand and a brush in the other, I began my task. Hours later, my arms ached, my skin burned, but I’d finished one side of one side of my fence. I stepped back to admire my handiwork. My throat throbbed. All my loving swishes had left light spots all over the fence.

Just like your sentence crept into my thoughts. Those light spots are weak words you allowed to remain in a sentence rather than taking time to search for stronger ones. I took a deep breath and returned to the spot where I started. Before laziness could overwhelm my thoughts, I dipped my brush into the paint and applied another coat.

In half the time it took to apply the first coat, I’d completed the second. My arms ached twice as much, and I think the sun had removed the top layer of my skin, but I’d finished. Again. I stepped away, gingerly this time. But it wasn’t necessary. A perfect fence section stood in front of me. Not one light spot. Not one knot hole exposing naked wood. No loose boards or painted-over pine needle. My fence sang. Just as well thought out and strategically placed words make a sentence dance, properly applied paint to my weathered fence gave my whole yard a fresh, new life.


  1. What an perfect post, Eunice. I loved it.

  2. Thanks for teaching us how to apply paint to our sentences. This can be heavy-duty work, but well worth the effort.


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