Clutter

A couple of days of extra powerful wind have blown across this portion of the state. My years of windsurfing on the lakes, rivers, and open ocean have taught me to love and respect strong wind, to be open to the feeling of this raw energy that has carried sailors around the world since before men began to record history. The wind died off in the late afternoon yesterday, but not without one last forceful blast up our redwood glen that nearly sent the umbrella, under which I sat, spiralling into the tree tops.

Now we are in for several days of heat. I am sure that following the heat we will see a marine layer–an atmosphere of low, drippy cloud and fog– spring from the cooler depths of the Pacific, and begins its seasonal spread along the nearby shores. About the time of year I am ready to embrace the warmth is when the cool settles in. When I go down to the beach to work on my tan and read from my Kindle, I see another wave of out-of-town visitors have come here to escape the penetrating heat of the inland valleys. They arrive in shorts and sandals and soon are bundled in blankets and towels. They come looking for relief  and forget what it feels like to be cold in the middle of a summer day.

I continue to transform a tool shed, a handsomely built one–with windows, electricity and insulation in the walls–into a place where I can move some books and art supplies. I originally built the shed for some such purpose as this, but it became filled with power equipment, boxes of hand tools, buckets of paint, stacks of extra tile, and tubs of nails, screws, fasteners, and a myriad of other small pieces of piping, plumbing, and electrical hardware left behind by the contractors who remodeled my house a couple of years ago. I was already pretty good at pack-ratting away things I didn’t need, in fact might never use, but when I encouraged others to use this space to store their equipment and supplies, I lost control of what was in the shed.

A lot of the stuff was somewhat valuable, but I had no need for it. What would I do with three or four electric drills, for example, or a nail gun and a hundred pounds of nails, or 60-pound sacks of grout and 40-pound sacks of mortar? One contractor had moved to Portugal and left much behind, while some of the stuff I had bought for another couple of builders to make their work easier. I began selling off some of the stuff, giving it to friends, but the rate of flow was a mere dribble, so I began to aggressively box up the stuff and haul it off to donation stores, where the needy might drool over a box of screwdrivers and crescent wrenches. I am still surprised by how much had accumulated. And I am still sorting through it. Just the 40 or 50 half-filled gallon buckets of paint have cost me a day or two of opening, looking, and recycling.

I have huge misgivings about getting rid of so much stuff; at least until I reflect on how short life truly is, and that I won’t be able to haul all this junk to heaven with me. Of course, if heaven is a place where people go to work on old houses, I might miss all this stuff, but then, that means I would already have found heaven here on earth in a tool shed. And so continues the sing-song work of purging my life of things and talking over the process with myself.

Today perhaps I will move a few more buckets of paint and then go down to the beach to read. I have a copy of Hanshan’s thousand-year old collection of poetry, Cold Mountain, that I have been wanting to read more carefully, when my mind is less cluttered. Maybe I’ll read it once with my mind cluttered, and then become cured of the clutter so that I might read it once again:

“People ask the way to Cold Mountain
but roads don’t reach Cold Mountain
in summer the ice doesn’t melt
and the morning fog is too dense
how did someone like me arrive
our minds are not the same
if they were the same
you would be here”

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