Thursday, July 19, 2007

cleaning under the influence

At ten-thirty in the morning I suddenly come to my senses. One chair sits by the refrigerator, and the box labeled "charity" sits on the seat. Another chair indicates someone has been climbing in the children's closet. Below the attic entry is a stack of bagged items: two handmade decorative pillows that no longer match my bedroom, though they are crafted with great love. One quilted by me, the other smocked by my mother. They can wait in the attic for the someday when we need them. A wooden pirate ship and its inhabitants are bagged and ready, as is the hobby-horse who is actually a hobby-giraffe, a wooden ring-toss game and a "balancing moon" game. Sweaters stacked on the table (which one will make the best laptop sleeve? Which one will make the nicest cardigan for my kids?)

I believe I started cleaning like a drunk woman in order to clear my desktop. Some technological shift requires me to move our telephone from The Place It's Always Been to my desktop. It will save us money, but I don't have to like it. The phone belongs near the calendar, in the kitchen, clearly. If anyone leaves a single ANYTHING on my desk… it won't be pretty. I need a place to stash the phone book out of sight, grrrr. Meanwhile I need yet another power strip to plug in a new vast array of power cords to routers and modems and answering machines…

As I'm trying to figure out a way around the nests of wires as my new decorating scheme, I recall my dad's desktop organizer, in the upper shelves of my closet. I believe Dad's father made it, or that's what I heard. This wooden set of "pigeonholes" was indispensable in college, filled with envelopes and stamps and index cards. Luckily, the items stacked atop the organizer slide right into place when I move it, dust flying. Thus the chair left by the opening of my own closet. And the dust needs removed, along with some ancient scotch tape. To the sink, to find the Murphy's Wood Oil Soap. Thus the cabinet door open. To discover the gunk spilled under the sink. Only a minor delay to clean the gunk, then to use the cleverly-placed chair in front of the frig to locate the shelf-lining paper I'd just seen up there…

At some point I repeat the cautionary mantra: wait, I'm cleaning like a drunk woman! WHY? Oh, yeah, I didn't have breakfast before I took kids to camp for the day, and I am out of my right mind. My "blood-sugar low" looks a lot like an alcohol-induced ADD. My house looks a lot like an alcohol-induced ADD, emphasis on the "disorder" part of the attention-deficit disorder. It takes some mighty will to pull away from all the projects and start some eggs and toast. I polish the wooden pigeon-holes with Murphy's while the eggs cook.

After my late breakfast, I roll the shelf-liner into place under the sink, and replace the roll in its home above the frig. I return all the stuff under the sink, leaving the grubby floor for later. I'm done in my closet, so I close it and return one dining chair to its home. The clean pigeon-hole organizer moves atop my desk, where the router fits in one slot, the phone whatcha-ma-who in another, the modem in another. I relocate the kids' board game collection to the top of their closet, making room for all the sets of plastic gizmos they claim important. I take the box of miscellaneous stuff from the top shelf and sure enough, nothing inside the box has been requested for three months—retired to the attic. Two chairs returned to the dining table.

I finish a quick visual sweep of the living room, looking for anything else I can shuttle to the attic without its being missed.

It's the last full day of camp for my children, and a good day to pick up what is scattered—my last day as "fiber artist in residence" was yesterday. Last week's paper-making supplies are tucked away, along with flosses for friendship bracelets and kumihimo braiding— in a moments generosity, Madeleine offered to wind bright flosses onto bobbins to make the project easier the next time. I still have quantities of loose wool and recycled sweater material to stash away, from wet-felting and hand-sewn treasure bag design. At camp yesterday, each group of kids lagged a little longer than the allotted time, trying to stay longer and sew more. I talked, while they worked, about setting up their own small sewing kits and finding recyclable sweaters for new projects. Some children told me they'd already sent their moms digging into closets for wool yarn, tapestry needles and shrunken sweaters. Consider these campers empowered.

The heddle loom remains on the windowsill, in case my kids and I are inspired to finish an Art Harbor banner begun by campers, for tomorrow's end-of-camp celebration.

Lest you think me possessed, I am leaving the "earthen scum" (Thank you, Louise Erdrich, see below) on the kitchen floor, and the celery (or whatever it is) rotting in the frig. The neglected baskets of clean laundry remain behind the couch. I still need to find a home for the small spinning wheel and the two bags of unprocessed wool fleece. I think I'll move it where my larger heddle loom is now, while I move my heddle loom to…

Before I find myself cleaning under the influence of drunken inspiration again, I go back to my desk, where I started, and pull out my laptop, which I need to get used to, and type a long memo for my blog. While eating breakfast, earlier, I began writing a story in my journal, with a pen, about cleaning like my mother who would always start in one place and end up with half the house disassembled, putting things away in the middle of the night...

All the chairs are returned to the dining table except the chair I'm sitting on, all the climbing done for today, I think, except for the climb up the attic stairs and the climb down three flights to the trash bin.

Summer is dreamy and good this year. Children are beautiful and happy. Weather is still unseasonably cool, which makes me happy. Scott uttered the words he hasn't said in years, "we sent the kids off the zipline today at school," which makes him happy. I'm tossing things into the wheeled duffle bag for my trip to Santa Fe, one week from today. So many things left to do and to arrange, and a few stories to write for a few magazines, too. But things are good, in the too-small treehouse condo by the sea. All the rest of life's hassles will work out over time, but the raspberries are thriving and a rogue watermelon vine sprung up from the compost we gave our downstairs neighbor—a huge melon ripens slowly on the front walkway. It's a good sign, fruitfulness from nothing, like the greenness and today's foggy mist.

Time to stop cleaning, and stop typing, and make a cool drink and some lunch, next, before I forget myself and begin to randomly clean anything I lay eyes on. I'm keeping the chairs at the table, where maybe they'll stick to the earthen floor while I go for a walk, before I pick up another thing to put away.


Lisa B. said...

LOL I clean the same as your mom, apparently...start with one thing and tear everything apart in the process, prompting my husband to utter, "I thought you were CLEANING?"

The kumihimo cool! What type of fiber did you use? Silk is traditional, but that would be pretty expensive for all those little crafters. Do you have a Maru-Dai? If not, what did you use for one? This is yet another craft I'd love to try at some I need to add any more to the list!

Can't wait to hear how your Santa Fe experience goes! So exciting! :)

Denise said...

Um, let's see, a Maru-Dai costs ninety dollars at the cheapest, but a cheap foam kumihimo disk costs $2.95 via Weir Doll Supplies... I've seen children do kumihimo on cardboard disks, too, so we used my three foam disks in the workshop and I transferred the projects to cardboard disks for children to take home.

We used "craft floss," made by DMC-- less frustrating than embroidery floss. Also from Weir Dolls, ten bucks will get you a rainbow of 36 skeins of floss. So the braids are pretty thin. Mercerized Cotton yarn works well also.

I'd love to have a Maru-Dai, sometime. Much more wicked-cool than a foam disk! But the disk is very, very portable. It's a great car project that can be carried in a sandwich bag.

Zillions of kumihimo patterns online-- I just teach the simplest one.