Sunday, October 18, 2009

How I Cleaned up This Mess, Part 1.

I have been making my way out of a little . . . not labyrinth. Not ball of yarn, not that neat. Not maze, but maybe that's the word to start with in the pretty gilt-edged Thesauraus I seldom use anymore. Maze: convolution. Tortuosity, a good word, used of rivers (see image). Circumbendibus, windings and turnings, torsion, inosculation, volute. Gyrus: a complex fold in the surface of the brain. That's closer. In short, I had a little structure in my mind about what I thought of as "the mess."

The mess in question was actually the whole house. We moved out of a twenty-year house in which pretty much everything not visible to the casual visitor was a mess, a huge heap, a landfill of early drafts and canning jars and knick-knacks picked up at garage sales and outworn clothing too good to throw away. I had to pack it all while Tom continued to work full-time with the last of his energy (within four months he would be on fulltime disability). Some stuff "got thrown out," as we like to say, putting it in the passive voice. But most of it I just stuffed in boxes. The mover estimated our household at 10,000 pounds.

Some of those boxes are still packed - several totes full of Tom's collection of Ohio pottery; some vintage fabrics and too-small clothes I just couldn't bear to give away. And, notably, the eighteen archive boxes marked BR2 (bedroom 2) and stacked in the big closet behind my back. These are my papers. Most have a Post-it on them that gives very little indication what is in them. "Old writing." "Sentiment 2001" - a whole box full for one year? Also in this room are two (2) four-drawer filing cabinets, you know, the kind you used to keep files in when files were on paper. Several boxes of current files were loaded into them after we got here, an odd mixture of my college papers and medical files and printouts of poetry. It gave me pause recently to realize that almost all of it could be kept on a hard drive; or out in the cloud (a thought that continues to bemuse me). That will take a lot of sorting and scanning. Until then, this stuff is in drawers and behind closed closet doors.

Having messes out of sight is a very good thing. That way they don't nag you. But at some time this year I impetuously agreed that Tom should put together some nice heavy wire shelving he had on hand for my other closet, the one that held my art supplies in a dangerous jumble. There is a very long narrative here, how the shelves sat for months in the guest room, me periodically stubbing my toes on them. How eventually I asked, "Am I supposed to do something about those shelves?" And so on. Yet, marriages survive. Eventually (tortuously?) I was ready. An able-bodied friend helped us pull the shelving into this room, and pull all the boxes out of that closet.

Every closet holds both less and more than you thought. This one turned out to contain the cremains of our journeys into photography some twenty, thirty years ago. We were both really into that then, so there were big boxes of stuff all mixed together, mine and Tom's. Contact sheets, inexplicable enlargements, slides, prints, lenses, instruction books. The Yashica twin-lens turned up, and a roll of unused film for it, too.

Then there were unruly sheets of paper that I dignify by the name "my artwork," pretty much every single little drawing I ever made, and every experiment in mixing paints, along with all the paints and brushes I bought and all that I inherited from Aunt Doris. And all the papers you can make art on: drawing, tracing, watercolor, canvas, felt-tip-marker pads, origami paper. I stacked these to go through later. Carefully I placed on the shelves my yoga blocks and pads. My guitar, my various little drums. I should stop here, before I confess to the $100 embroidery kit, hardly touched, that I bought to get me through thyroid surgery (it did) . . . The point is, it now sat out on my study floor. All of it.

It's a big room, so it wasn't that the stuff was in the way. I could still walk to my computer without anything falling behind me and trapping me in there. It just wasn't neat. And you can probably guess that it was stuff with meaning to me. Stuff like that radiates its desire to be cared for with respect. I kept affirming, I'm going to clean this mess up.
Now, this is certainly more than 300 words, which is my own idea of long enough for a blog entry. It is acting like memoir does act, insisting on describing in full detail the disgusting part where you hit bottom. After all, it's the mess that appeals to our base instincts, our hope that somewhere there is someone messier than us.

Anyway, I am working on some soup. So I shall close, and continue tomorrow with this riveting saga if I feel like it - for I am not only the writer, but also the editor and, if you think about it, the publisher. So we'll have to see how much influence I have over myself in the morning.

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha.. how very much like my mess.. lots of office and art supplies not needed. Taking everything out and making more mess to clean a mess. Forgetting and tolerating them until the mess becomes annoying.

    I would love to live in a very Zen-looking place. Good luck in your cleaning..