Thursday, November 4, 2010

Home, Keeping

To hermit should be a verb. My usual modus involves driving down to school and back three days a week, and occasionally accompanying the Beloved Spouse on a shopping trip that may include a meal at one of our usual haunts. Otherwise I don't get out much.

Part of this is Vera's fault. She's training me to hypermile, which means that the longer the trips, the better the mileage, so I've become really hesitant to go anywhere nearby unless I can combine stops for overall fuel efficiency. I made my first close-in, purpose-driven trip last Monday to Fairview (the town just south of McKinney) to the new Whole Foods Market on opening day.

It's rather unfortunate, however, that I can now shop so close to home, because it means I'll be getting out even less frequently. WFM is on the way home for the BS, so he will be picking up his Old Growler and muesli by himself, and I won't be forced to head south early on Fridays to stock up on food for our one remaining cat, Harpo. (My previous WFM venue was in the complex where I work.)

So what?, one might reasonably ask. My only reason for mentioning these trivialities is that I've been doing a lot of thinking about home and hearth of late. My gnawing homesickness for Eastern California has been exacerbated during the election season by the relentless lack of intelligence reflected in the Texas electorate. California doesn't usually do much better, but I used to like Jerry Brown and he's got to be an improvement over Arnold (after all, Meg Whitman thought so, too). I'm lately tempted to buy a travel trailer and a plot of land in the Owens Valley and just move back out there.

But I'm not really in a position to go anywhere, so I've taken refuge in my hermitage. I've started clearing out the garage and the attic, sorting through assorted closets, recycling stuff I don't need--all in preparation for making a real effort to fix the place up. Finally.

I hear a great deal of buzz around work about how exhausted people are from "house work" and "yard work." It makes me wonder at the differences in attitude between those folks and people like me who talk about "home-keeping" and "gardening" instead. Yes, it's hard work; but it's enormously satisfying when one can sit in a comfy chair or in the garden after an afternoon's effort and enjoy a hot cuppa. I would like nothing better than to do "house work" all the time, at least when I wasn't at the computer yapping on blogs or writing the great American science fiction novel.

If the physical space that contains one's home isn't pleasant or well-loved, or if one has no occupational choice, necessary tasks like hoovering or dusting or tidying up might well seem like drudgery. Occasionally, while Koko was still alive, I grew tired of the constant cleanup associated with caring for an ailing pet. And perhaps a bit of my current fondness for nesting in, rather than venturing out, comes from my recent release from that small burden. Koko's brother, Harpo, seems to sense it, too; he's become an affectionate companion rather than a timid soul who hides most of the time.

My own isolation (hiding?) will come to an end this weekend, when we venture south to San Antonio to celebrate my father-in-law's eightieth birthday. Granted, we'll be with family, and we'll be taking the "puppies," but it'll be something of an adventure. I don't think I've been further south than Dallas in at least two years.

Nevertheless, my efforts at clearing cobwebs from the attic are helping to clear them from my brain, and this connection may lie at the heart of why I find these activities pleasurable rather than onerous. Lately I've been able to work in the breakfast room, refurbishing some old bookends by decorating them with Japanese papers and ephemera, only because I finally cleared away months' worth of collected detritus from atop the table.

For the last couple of years I've been stymied by the length of the list of things to do, most of them major: re-tile the bath upstairs, put in a new floor upstairs, re-roof the house, re-glaze the windows, re-paint assorted rooms, re-finish floors downstairs, re-screen the porch. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I've made endless lists, prioritized, and worried over it all whenever I wasn't busy worrying about school. Of course, this strategy accomplished nothing.

Then, around the end of summer, I started simply doing things. Small things: making sure the dishes were done and the downstairs tidied before bed (so I wouldn't be greeted by a pile and/or a mess in the morning); running the vacuum cleaner through the house once or twice a week (instead of waiting until the place was three-inches thick in dog fur); picking up stray twigs from the garden (mostly bits of fallen pecan branches) and adding them to the twig "wall" that edges part of the Carbon Sink (instead of pitching them on the brush heap); making weekly forays into the garage to find objects that have to be thrown out rather than re-purposed or re-positioned; recovering old electronics boxes from the attic for recycling.

Slowly, I'm retraining myself. Instead of pining away about the lack of time I have to get anything accomplished, I've started using the existing time more wisely. I no longer keep long lists, although I do jot down ideas for small, do-able tasks. In time (time, again!) the empty boxes will be gone, the garage will be more accessible, and there will be even more time.

This is not unlike getting out of debt. Once one starts paying things down, the lower the balance becomes, and the faster the debt melts away.

What I didn't realize when I started paying attention to the process (in terms of both monetary debt and "junk debt") was the sense of well-being that ensues. One source of my periodic funks, it seems, was simply being overwhelmed by mounting numbers of tasks. "Just do it," the ad preaches.

For once, advertising seems to be doing some good. I'm just not quite sure why it took me so long to get the message.

Image credit: As always, when I think of home, I think of Carl Larsson's evocative watercolors. This one is Lathörnan ("Cosy Corner") from Ett hem, 1894, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 comment:

Martha Z said...

My mother would say "only begin and the spirit will carry you through."
I could have bundled errands, Kaiser for the flu shot, the library and the market, but didn't. We rode the bikes to Kaiser and the library but still need to go to the market but I think we came out ahead.
Keeping up with my neighbors standards would be housework; cluttered but clean enough to be healthy, that is my idea of home keeping.