Mucking Out

Mucking Out

Originally published at Substack: 12/26/2020

Greenhouse office with shelves, geraniums, lemon tree in a pot, desk with computer and notebooks, and prodigal cat sleeping on the chair.

I was talking to my Beloved Stepmother on Christmas Day while watering the plants (oh! How I miss real phones, the kind you can pin to your ear with your shoulder) when a whole shelf in the greenhouse-office flipped and geraniums and dirt went flying, and knocked a glass jar off a lower shelf that was … full of light bulbs? It was a mess. 

When Himself built me this room nearly 10 years ago, he didn’t set the shelves properly because I wasn’t sure where I was going to want them to go. I set them using those little metal pins you stick in holes you drill. The reason I got the door/window units he repurposed for free was because the cedar was degrading after 15 years or so of taking the full blast of the Livingston winds at the top of the Yellowstone bluffs. 

Suddenly, all the shelves looked like a Very Bad Idea, including the one I use as a sort of altar, which has Many Fragile Items on it. 

This morning, while Himself went home to shower and have breakfast etc … I cleared out all the plants (they got a lovely soaking shower in the bathtub), and vacuumed up the spidery bits, and Himself came over and set the shelves properly. And fixed the kitchen cabinet handles which probably date from the 1930s, and which finally stuck last week. 

This week between Christmas and New Years is my favorite of the year. We all have new books, and new notebooks, and most of us don’t have to work. And now that the holiday is actually over, I find I’m breathing again, not feeling quite so panicky. It doesn’t make sense that I was racing like an engine with bad timing — I don’t have kids, the family members got their gifts, Himself and I kept it pretty mellow this year, but for weeks, I’ve felt like I’m behind, like I’ve forgotten something, like I’ve fucked up mightily but just don’t know it yet.

I’ve had more lonely and screwed up Christmasses than a lot of people, but for some reason, knowing that everyone else was having a terrible Christmas sent me kind of off the deep end. I was unmoored to an extent that surprised me. 

And I’m more relieved than I expected that it’s over. A week off. Everyone has a week off (well all of us who aren’t working retail, which I did through my 30s). 

I thought I’d be buckling down, making progress on this book, starting new notebooks and making new plans when what I’m actually doing is clearing out clutter. Throwing out bags of stuff that’s just accumulated over this weird-ass year. I vacuumed all the dead spidery bits out of the greenhouse, put the shelves and the plants back up, moved this years notebooks to the office. 

Which is the next frontier. How my office came to be the Place of Towering Piles, I’m not sure. I went through the bookshelves not long ago. It’s one of those things I do when I’m starting a new project, or in this case, changing the angle of attack. Move the books that don’t apply to this one, bring books that do up from the basement storage. Putting them out on the shelves helps me see where I want to go. 

So tomorrow it’s into the office with more boxes for trash, figuring out what to keep and what can go, getting the piles whittled down, my desk reorganized, getting ready for a new year.  

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