Cleaning House, Finding Treasures
Ah, the new year, a time to fall in line with my better self and ponder the things I plan to do, change, rectify and/or discard in my life. Nothing too heady here; I’m thinking clean closets, no second helpings, walking more and talking less.
One of my first endeavors included cleaning out and removing two file cabinets from my upstairs linen closet alcove. Initially, I was counting on eight gliding drawers of storage space to keep the documental detritus of my life locked and loaded for easy retrieval. Instead, the behemoths acted more like steel sarcophaguses where entombed papers and “collectibles” awaited an afterlife never realized.
In one file cabinet, under a pancake-stack of CDs, rested a zipped-up leather portfolio cocooning a bunch of forgotten writings, cards, and photographs—seemingly, mementos I held in higher esteem than the neighboring discographies of 80’s greatest hits and funk legends. Inside the portfolio, I found a document titled Homework: Vashon Vision.
I read the first few lines (head-tilt and curious puppy-face on full display). After feather-dusting the cobwebs from my head and shaking a few bread crumbs out of my ears, I remembered Vashon Vision was an exercise to write down what I wanted my life to look like, that is, prodding pen, paper, and intent to speak to my future self. The homework assignment from twenty years ago was part of a life-coach curriculum I was participating in with a friend of mine, Kathy, who was seeking her certification in the field. I was her willing student and she my steadfast, whip-smart mentor.
At the time I wrote Vashon Vision, I was living in Seattle commuting to a corporate job that I feared did not see the magic in me, nor I in it. In my heart, I wanted something else, a day without meetings, posturing or feeling less-than. I also wrestled with the reality that Seattle had outgrown me. My sweet little Green Lake neighborhood was being roused from its century-old sleep by the pin-pricks of “progress” and development. After the little brick house next door to me was torn down only to be replaced a spec-box four times its size, I thought I needed to figure out my next move to escape such urban encroachment and loss of place. How did I see myself in the coming years and just what would a good day look like to me?
The following excerpts are from that writing assignment, where I waxed on about what a move to my favorite Puget Sound island and imaginary farmhouse would look like.
HOMEWORK: Vashon Vision (circa 2003)
“A rooster crows and the lone wale of a ferry horn follows, cutting through the morning fog and silence alike. The warmth and stillness of being in bed makes it difficult to leave such a blanketed embrace, that is until the snorts and gurgles of a sleeping bulldog morph into a full-blown snore — my cue to rise and shine. Downstairs, my ears are keen to another morning sound: the welcoming call of a programmable coffee pot—first rumblings, then escaping steam, drip, drip, drip, then the aroma escapes the confines of this little appliance and finds its way right to my nose.
First coffee on the front porch stairs, as the morning is young (so says this early riser). I wonder what the day will bring—routine, surprise, contentment, a little angst, a little intrigue? I lock on the sight of deer drifting through the tall grass, and I let them linger long enough to stare at me and me at them. As they graze my garden, I think it’s time to shoo them off, knowing they’ll be back by evening when my attention is elsewhere. Maggie wedges her wrinkled mug through the unlatched door and senses adventure mere yards away. A quick piddle in her favorite spot, then off to expedite the deer’s departure and save me the trouble.
My old farmhouse casts a spell of cozy familiarity, of earlier times, of forgotten history. It has stood in its place for a long time, when roads were mud and timber king, when letters were hand-scripted on paper stiff, when the mosquito fleet of Puget Sound dodged flotillas of schooners and masted giants. I know not the history seen through the windows of my house, but my imagination finds no limits to that which I have not experienced, but hold in my heart. I see the mistress of the house retrieving sheets off the clothing lines as a storm approaches, along with a young man carrying a smile and a weighty bushel of fresh-picked apples, his cheeks blushing with the same color found in the basket. Children clamor down the stairs to intercept his windfall. Minutes later, all run for the porch as clouds like the burgeoning bushel can hold their contents no longer.
My daydream takes me to work at hand, some simple chores: feed the chickens, thin some apple tree branches and ponder the story I’m writing. My toes cannot escape the slap of wet grass saddled with dew. The dawn is young and the sun has yet to fully join us. Maggie acts as scout, cutting through the meadow like a stealthy, invisible, tigress. She leads me to the berry patch for breakfast pickings.
After breakfast, I go to my study, to a desk reserved for writing. My study is a small room, well-appointed but not too cluttered (very wishful thinking), and with a view of the garden and the changing cloudscapes skirting the tree line. I have another desk in another room, but it’s reserved for the daily duties of paying bills, and maintaining one’s paper-trail life. And yes, it’s quite cluttered.
I have several projects going, one a freelance piece, another an essay on gardening, and one an evolving story begging to be a book. I hum a song in my head and try to pen the lyrics before the melody evaporates and leaves me in silence. I remember enough to tuck the words away for another day when more music seeks refuge in my head, or I seek refuge in the music.
I write throughout the morning, but not without taking breaks to hug Maggie, drink more coffee and take a clip around the garden again. A neighbor stops by for fresh eggs, rewarding me with a half-pint of honey for my hen’s efforts. We catch up. We laugh. We wave goodbye.
I finish the afternoon writing and rewriting. As shadows lengthen, the sun’s arch towards the Olympic range reminds me it’s time to take a walk before dusk—time to rediscover that the inspiration in words comes from the inspiration in life.”
How Time Flies…
Posts like these are a little awkward for me. I’ll be the first to say there are no magic waves-of-the-wand to make things happen; but based on my own experience, I think any time I focus on what I do want, I find myself on a better path to understanding and realizing my direction. Writing down my perfect day got me started. Course corrections and awareness led me further to find my beloved farm and the solid touchstones of friends and family. Twenty years later my dream found a place to park.