Saturday, June 20, 2009

Clearing Out

I started cleaning out closets in January and it has been quite an ordeal. We moved into this house 13 years ago and have slowly and surely filled every space. I am amazed and disgusted with some of the things I've found. I organized the basement storage space. We are neither handy nor organized and have always found it easier to go to the hardware store and get whatever we need rather than looking for it in the work area. Conversely, I can't throw anything out. So the basement shelves are full of little bags of screws and nails. Many switch plate covers. I bought some little organizing bins and sorted everything into its easily seen and accessed little clear plastic cubby. Why do I do this for the people who will be renting the house for the year, but not for us?

There was a pile of steel wool under the shelf and I was pulling it out from behind an old register grate when my (bare) hand encountered something soft and silky, yet with hard sticks underneath. Not like steel wool at all. I screamed. Then I looked. Rat. Dead a long time, didn't even smell anymore. It was perfect. A little rat mummy worthy of a spot in a diorama. Had I still been teaching preschool, I would have been tempted to bring it in. Jules and Noah came running, but they were only marginally interested. I insisted Noah help me clean it up, but then I thought of Hanta virus - which I know comes from mice not rats, I checked, but still. So I got the shovel and scooped the little guy into a garbage bag. Glad we didn't leave that for the renters, but sorry I don't have a picture.

Going through my own things I am astonished by the number of things that have survived from my past to reside in my attic. Since they have been around for so long, they take on increased significance, even though they never should have been saved in the first place. I forced myself to get rid of a lot, but since I didn't want to get rid of everything, I had to go through many items. I found notes and letters from my school and college days. Letters from long gone folks. All of my school ID cards. My baby book. Curiously blank. Newspaper articles from the Goshen News sent from my grandmother and featuring family members or house fires.

I had a garage sale of all of the wonderful finds I have accumulated over the years. My vintage dresses. Suits from Paris with shoulder pads. Handmade linens with minute stitches. Green bowls with one small chip. A bed that just needed to be glued a little. Nobody wanted my stuff. I only raised $100 for the library. It just goes to show, that if I am willing to get rid of it, it is of little value to anyone else.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Last Visit to Ellen's Farm in Cashmere, Washington

Ellen's house is the old caretakers building with sloping plywood floors painted coral. Heat comes from a wood stove that she tends expertly to keep the cabin cozy in the winter. The ceilings are low. Each comfortable chair is covered in a perfectly aged piece of interesting fabric. The old table from her dining room has been painted periwinkle since my last visit. In the living room, there is my old red 40’s armchair that my mom got for 5 dollars at a garage sale and shipped across the country. I had it in my living room until the leg broke off. Ellen has it against the wall with a block under the back corner.

Blue jugs spilling with wild roses, sage, lupine and balsam grace each surface. Ellen has a way of tearing off flowers, gathering them in her fist and stuffing them in a pitcher that results in the most naturally artful arrangements. It’s easy she says, but I have tried and it is not easy. It's like her house. The everyday, sometimes sorrowful objects are grouped to fall into beautiful vignettes. She is an artist.

I have come up here four or five times just with Ellen and some other friends. In the winter we ski, in the summer we run. We always go to Apple Annie’s for just the piece of vintage junk to liven up the table. Tease each other about gifts for people who aren't with us. Gather food for Ellen to make dinner. We sit at the kitchen table while Ellen whips up amazing Mexican food or other delicious dinners. First night this time was lobster tail. We drink wine. We laugh uproariously. We have so much time over these weekends that we tell our entire life stories, those of our friends and families too. Then we soak in the hot tub and the most hilarious stories come out. We laugh our heads off. Then we go to bed. Read into the night. Get up. Drink coffee. Run up the mountain. Laugh our heads off some more. It is a wonderful life.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Getting Ready

Jonathan and I are getting ready to move to Granada, Nicaragua for a year with our sons, Jules (16) and Noah (13). We leave in a month and the reality is setting in. It was one thing to contemplate this amazing adventure to take place at 14 degrees latitude during the long, dark winter in Seattle and quite another to move us all there, leaving the Pacific Northwest during these beautiful days lengthening toward the solstice. It smells so good here.

But it smells really good in Nicaragua, too. Stepping off the airplane, there is always a moment when I really know we are there. It smells like wood smoke, tropical forest and floor polish. I can't wait to go, but there is so much to do to get ready.