Sunday, May 18, 2008


how do you move back into a space?

some people, the pure, sink their hands in the earth and garden. the conscientious read their mail and balance their chequebooks. empaths play with their pets. intellectuals read and write their way back in. a true wild child needs no transition: life keeps unfolding around her, packed or unpacked, home or away, no matter the circumstances.

me, i work. the best thing after a trip is to clean the house. i like to dust and vacuum and wash the fridge shelves. i definitely have to rearrange the cupboards. sure, part of this is OCD, but most of it is good common sense. who would put half the mugs right side up when the pattern is clearly to arrange them upside down? soup goes on this shelf, with other canned goods, not with the cooking oil and vinegar. don't you want your towels folded symmetrically? and sweet jesus above, did you even look at the tupperware drawer before you threw things in higgledy piggledy?

the joy in this, for me, is not order and cleanliness per se. or, okay, not solely about freaky neatness. in dusting and vacuuming, washing the spoon rest, i touch our things and, through them, the stories and relationships that shape our lives. i am a materialist, and not always in the honorable marxist sense. i love the objects we own. the things in our house have been chosen, and then arranged in a way that pleases the eye and soothes the spirit (my eye, anyway, my spirit). this is the dish mark and leslea gave us; this, the rug i bought on ebay; this, the photograph my father took. i made this table, commissioned this stained glass. ted wrote this book. i bought the spoon rest on a whim at a winners store in ottawa, desperate to finish christmas shopping for mo's mom, the day before we got that big snowfall. that was the year cameron was born, the christmas we took aunty jo to ottawa.

in this way i get reacquainted with the old, and i look at things in a new way, too, and make decisions. many are banal. do we really need this many everyday drinking glasses? i integrate. if i'm going to add the purple mate gourd (the one i bought with dianne in mind, before i found the better one, the one that caused me to try mate again, with sugar, and discover its pleasures -- in short, the purple mate gourd i learned to love), we need to move some objects along. but not the cups from my niece!

housework is also how i learn what's happened here while we've been gone. look at all that black hair next to the stuffed mouse: madge has a new lair. seems our housesitter has made use of my study: good, other people find it conducive to thoughtfulness. what city plans were drawn up here? outside, i can see it's been windy, but also, someone has been in the yard. why did they wrap the swing around the crossbar? and whose single shoe is next to the fence?

it's embarassing to be so territorial, such a taurus, so, well, girlish. i've spent a lot of my life wishing to be different. oh, to be whimsical not disciplined! i tried to be a flaneur who needs only the city, a feminist who disdains housework, a free spirit. but just look at me. i made a bad christian, but can you imagine what a disaster i'd be as a buddhist?

the black cat is sleeping beside me as i write this, one paw protectively on the keyboard. she's purring a little. the air smells clean and the grass is as green as the quilt on the front porch, the one my mother made. when i shift in my chair the wood floors creak (the floors that betray the original floorplan, the floors across which i've watched the sunlight move), and i think about senses, and things, and love, and home, and michael ondaatje: "all this beethoven and rain."

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