What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

On cleaning out the garage

In a tradition that dates back to the Stone Age when Early Man had to clear a corner of his cave in order to get his Giant Sloth in before the snows started, I spent this past weekend clearing out the garage. Every year about this time, I have to take a deep breath and plunge into this seemingly overwhelming task. It is a crazy idea. What do I really need the garage for? Except, maybe, oh, I don’t know…parking the car, perhaps. Silly me. This year it was so bad that I considered just calling in a few truckloads of dirt to cover it over and then having it designated as a landfill site.

The task resembles Hercules’ labors in cleaning the Aegean Stables in more ways than I like to think about, but I dive right in. First, I must find a place for all the bicycles, scooters, swim rings, pogo sticks, lawn carts, fertilizer spreaders, and lawn chairs that have sprung up like mushrooms across the garage floor over the summer. For want of a better solution, these items usually end up being hung from the ceiling. Before long, the garage begins to look like a parody of an Alexander Calder exhibit. In order to complete the effect, I festooned the walls with rakes, shovels, hoes, axes, pruning saws and other assorted implements. The garage walls become a sculptural metaphor for both creation and destruction.

I struggle with what to do about the boys' stick collection. During their travels, they have gathered their usual assortment of interesting gnarly sticks and roots. I hesitate to throw them away just yet, since as a boy, I also subscribed to the belief that “you just can’t have too many gnarly sticks”. I find a corner where I can stash the summer collection until they replace it with the trendy late fall collection of pinecones, buckeyes, and dried leaves.

Next, I start in on the mountains of “stuff” that have been shoved into the corners and shelves of the garage over the past year. I find Christmas decorations from last year that never quite made it all the way back to the attic. The telescope that never got put away after August’s meteor shower is found buried in there. Half empty paint buckets from springtime painting jobs are hidden under piles of empty cardboard boxes from recent purchases. One particularly artistic mess is composed of a discarded school science project, the blade from a broken window fan, pieces of wooden molding, and lengths of green gardening wire all tangled together in leftover Halloween spider webbing and orange kite string. A liberal sprinkling of dirt and sawdust provides the unifying theme to this unholy creation. This piece immediately finds a home in my “Bottom Of The Trash Can” collection.

I find boxes of clothes that are still there from the summer’s garage sale and were supposed to have gone to charity. Since I was the one who was supposed to have delivered them, I quietly hide them in the trunk of the car until I can dispose of the evidence at the nearest charitable drop off point.

There are bags of bags inside of a bag sitting on one of the upper shelves. It is a bag fractal. These are probably my wife’s work so I try to bunch them up tighter until she is out of the house and I can unobtrusively dispose of them. I will have to fall back on the coyly rendered, “Oh, did you want those?” excuse, if she notices that they are missing.

Digging through these piles of stuff is really like finding a time capsule. There, written in the piles of clutter, mess, and junk, is the history of my family's whole year. It would be nice to pause for a while and reflect on the memories of the past year, but the winter’s weather won’t wait for wistful moments. There is much to do and “(piles) to go before I sleep.” So I press on. Still, I do take a moment to seriously reconsider my earlier rejection of the landfill idea.


Blogger alto artist said...

Bag fractal: brilliant. (It kind of describes my entire life, too.)

22/11/05 10:18 PM  
Anonymous glory said...

What I like most about this post is that it manages to work in Greek mythology, modern art, fractal geometry, and (punnily) Robert Frost, and yet it still makes sense. Happy Thanksgiving.

22/11/05 10:46 PM  

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