Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Day Three Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty Eight . . . Odd jobs.

There's a corner of my house I look at every time I go out to the back yard.

It's right next to the outdoor faucet which has a long garden hose connected to it so it gets a lot of use. I mean, nothing gets "done" in that corner right outside the perimeter of the deck, but it gets looked at every time we water the plants which is pretty often these days.

"Man, those leaves have been there since the fall", I'll often say to myself. "I need to clean that up." And then I move on and do three or four other things and it gets left and forgotten about until the next time I fill up the watering can or roll the hose back up.

In fact, now that I think about it I did clean that corner up this spring. But I guess not well enough, because up until just this past weekend there was a fine matted and thick layer of maple tree leaves c. November of 2017.

The job never fully got done.

But this weekend was a beautiful one indeed. The five day heatwave finally broke and we had temps in the high 70s and low 80s. Some nights it got downright chilly. And so I found myself outside a good deal of the time.

One of these days I did a bunch of weeding and Jodi did a bunch of watering and planting. As I was headed over to turn on the hose faucet for her I saw--as I had twenty times at least since the springtime kicked in--this very high profile corner with the matted carpet of leaves . . . and I began to put handfuls of them into one of the the many trusty Wegman's bags Jodi's mom had given us. It took all of four minutes for me to clear out this corner. And when I say clear out I mean I actually did a "good" job as opposed to my lifetime history of providing the barest of bare minimums in most situations that involve any kind of manual labor.

Upon putting the last brown brittle leaf in the bag I walked over to the side of the yard and emptied the contents onto one of the many piles of garden refuse amassed there, and then I returned to see the grand renovation I had spearheaded.

It was glorious.

This 5' x 5' area that I had overlooked for so many weeks if not months seemed like it was actually smiling at me. The landscape rocks that had spent the entire springtime in darkness were finally seeing the brilliant sunshine of July. The deck's damp lower corner's lattice work was finally breathing the same cool dry air I was. And the lines of the red bricks connecting with the foundation seemed to be showing off their pristine and prominent right angles.

Everything made sense again. 

And all because I took four minutes to throw a few handfuls of leaves in a bag.

It's really incredible to me to look at something like this and think how such a small amount of effort can pay off in such rich visual and emotional dividends. And I know that not everyone gets a thrill from cleaning and organizing as I do. My mom, God bless her soul, was a "pack rat" as they used to call them. And there weren't too many corners of her house which didn't have something taking up space. Whether it was a life-sized ceramic baby lamb wearing a straw hat, or a Sterlite tub of gifts--still with their tags attached--purchased at a going-out-of-business sale earmarked for somebody who she hadn't yet met, the space she called her own was seemingly always filled to the max. I don't know if she could have lived in a house devoid of some sort of clutter without feeling the need for change. All I know is that an simple minimal life is one I hope to someday achieve. And each day I work towards that goal bit by bit, selling things on eBay, giving to the Good Will or making hard decision of what to throw away.

I have lots of areas in my life that are covered with a thin but stubborn layer of old leaves. Places where I meant to keep up with something or stay in touch with someone, but somehow every time I think about it my attention is either thrown overboard or gets dragged away by someone or something beyond my control. I know that this is a combination of intentional avoidance and legitimate overstimulation. But neither is an excuse for at least not addressing it.

I have learned over these ten years and counting that this life I'm trying to live--a sober life--isn't something that is achieved with the decision to stop putting specific things into my body.

Of course that is the big one.

It's the all-encompassing goal.

It's the house.

But it's the little things that pop up on a daily basis that help this dream become a reality.

It's the little piles of mental leaves that nag and taunt from an often used corner of my mind. An issue in my world that I keep meaning to address but never seem to "find" the time.

It's the weeds that pop up in the driveway--the ones that found life from the cracks that a long winter's thaw made--these are the places that need attending.

The loose boards in the deck that I walk over day after day after day and I keep saying "I need to really put a nail in that thing" and then I remember I never checked on the mail.

If I put a nail in the board it will fix it for a long time. But takes finding a hammer and, of course, a nail and putting the effort into it. It's not easy but it's not hard. It's just something I would rather put off. Most days I'm not expecting anything special in the mail, but it's easier to walk down the driveway and check it mindlessly, and then look at my phone and feel it is my duty to comment on something that someone said on some stupid social media site.

The next day I'll walk out on the deck and the board will still be broken and I'll have nobody to blame but myself.

The weird thing is, when you fix something, or clean something, or deal with something, for the most part that's it. It's done. It's done and you don't notice it again. I can fix the board in the deck today (and maybe I will) and the next time I walk on it I might notice it's not broken anymore. But that detail fades away pretty quickly and the stimulation is absorbed into the ether. Maybe part of me liked the constant reminder. Maybe part of me enjoyed knowing that that area to the right of the faucet needed to be cleaned. I don't really know, because I don't really notice that corner anymore.

I have some corners in my life that need attending to. They're mainly areas that I've put off for years because things have been going well. I don't feel like they've been growing from neglect like a patch of weeds. They're more like a thick rug of brown leaves that have amazingly kept in some moisture from a couple of seasons ago. There may be a mushroom or two underneath, who knows?

I've grown accustomed to the way that part of my world looks and feels, but I know inside that there is work to be done.

I realize that if I peel away these layers--and this job will take longer than the four minute bagging that I did to the right of the faucet in my tangible world--but if I peel away these layers, or put a nail in the stubborn loose board that I keep walking over, that this will keep my own house healthy and this will keep my relationships with others strong.

The payoff for all of this is different than just stepping back and being able to look at a corner of the yard you've just weeded and saying, "Wow, that looks so much better!"

In fact, there is no guarantee that there will actually be any noticeable difference.

There's no promise that the path one takes to mend a broken fencepost will lead to lasting change.

This life--I'm learning--doesn't get any easier the more days that go by.

Because a fence is more than one post, a house is more than one brick, a garden is more than one weed and a tree's leaves will always fall.

The job never fully gets done.

But there's a moment to strive for when one can hopefully lay back in bed and see a lifetime of little accomplishments and smile.

And sleep.

And wake.

And see the beauty in the job itself.

Thanks for reading,