Tuesday, July 03, 2007

cleaning out

I'm still struggling with the mess that is almost eight years of accumulation that needs to be sorted and, uh, managed one way or another. Time is running short, so I must hop to it. In today's New York Times, my favorite writer tackles a similar problem in his "Rural Life" column. I can relate... kind of.

My favorite lines are, "This means allowing myself to feel a sudden hatred for objects I’ve been moving around for years. I spend the day muttering."

Barn Cleaning
by Verlyn Klinkenborg

I begin with the premise that the barn will never be clean. It has a dirt floor, and hay is always sifting down from the loft. Swallows have nested over the light fixtures, the chipmunks are everywhere and someone has dug a very proud hole under the wall near the horse tank. I can’t make it clean, but I can recover some territory. I’m not a real farmer, but I have a real farmer’s hoarding instinct — the belief that the thing I’m about to throw out will be just the thing I need down the road. Right now I’m trying to keep myself from throwing out a rubber feed pan that one of the horses has pawed a hole in. I have no idea what I would ever use it for, but that isn’t really the point. It isn’t a matter of knowing, looking forward. It’s a matter of not regretting, looking back.

But what I regret right now is all this junk, and so I’m cleaning the barn. This means allowing myself to feel a sudden hatred for objects I’ve been moving around for years. I spend the day muttering. I tear apart an old tool bench I have loathed all this time. I throw out the previous owner’s electric waterers and the 8-foot yard hydrant with the bend in the middle and the plastic tarps that are full of holes. I see with some clarity the limits of my character and, in a sense, the limits of my life. I love the gratification of fixing what is broken, but it takes a certain kind of breaking for me to be able to do any good. I am never going to be able to weld in a hay barn.

I stop sometimes to watch the swallows fly through the barn or to admire the fact that all the sockets are now in one place. I pretend that I will know in a week where I put everything today. I spend a moment or two admiring the dried up litter of immature mice I found in a drawer. And I finally admit to myself that a half-decomposed box of books that has lived in the barn for a decade has lost its place in civilization. So I load the books one by one — Derrida’s “Of Grammatology,” Frye’s “The Great Code,” even my old copy of Heidegger’s “Being and Time” — into the tractor bucket with a great wad of used baling twine. The burn pile or the Dumpster? That is an easy question. The books flutter down from the bucket on high onto an old hayrack on the floor of the Dumpster. I try to decide if I will have to answer for this someday.

Now, back into the piles in my own little barn. *mutter*

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