My writing table is clean for the first time in three years. Digging down through the piles, I discovered some unopened correspondence — can there be anything more melancholy? — and four envelopes that I’d put stamps on, presumably for letters I never finished writing, or wrote and then decided not to send.
With two or three years’ perspective, one has a better idea of what’s really necessary to keep, and what can be pitched. I found multiple copies of minutes from old meetings I couldn’t remember having attended. I found articles that I had set down where I would see and read them, but then quickly buried with other, more urgent things. I had to create four new file folders, and in the process reacquainted myself with my filing system, which is not organized alphabetically but by logical relatedness.
For example, in one of my file cabinets, a folder marked “Me” — for expired passports and the like — is followed by “Stuff” — owner’s manuals and warrantees — and then “Financial Crap.” Beyond that, the back half of the drawer holds files of correspondence from family and friends — letters and postcards, poems and photos. Going in the other direction, “Me” is preceded by “How-To” (which is practically empty; I’m not very handy), “Herbs,” and at the front of the drawer, a number of bulging folders devoted to beer and brewing.
So here I sit at my clean, almost empty table, struggling against the blankness of this virtual page. I feel suddenly very exposed. But that NY Times article I blogged about the other day, “Saying Yes To Mess,” frightened me. I never like thinking I might be part of some trend or movement.
Last night we asked my cousin Morgan, who is still young enough to believe in Santa, how her Christmas had gone. “O.K., I guess,” she said. “But I have so many toys now! Next year I’ll have to have a little talk with Santa, and tell him not to bring me too many more toys.” I’m not sure she realizes that many of her cousin Elanor’s toys, including some that were in my parents’ living room last night, had once belonged to her.
Of course, Elanor is young enough to be happy with practically anything: an empty plastic pint container can provide hours of amusement. And Morgan’s attention is drawn often enough to natural objects — a mantid egg case, a goldenrod gall. She brought the magnifying glass that my mother had given her on an earlier visit and wanted to take a close look at everything.
Most interesting of all — to me, at least — is Morgan’s penchant for spinning stories. A toy or other object no sooner attracts her attention than it is endowed with a personality and a basic trajectory of needs. We humans are all still animists at heart, I think.