June 27, 2008

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Summertime, and the digging is easy

Cynthia DewesRainy summer days, which have been numerous this year, may lead to all kinds of unusual behaviors. The stir-crazy effect forces the modern overly busy person to perform rare tasks, such as reading an actual book, baking something or writing an actual snail-mail letter.

My personal favorite is cleaning out files, drawers, cupboards, closets, in fact, any of the plentiful packrat facilities in my home. Not that the results are evident, mind you. Clutter continues to reign, but I find it amusing to give neatness a run now and then.

It is fun to see or re-examine the stuff you have saved over the years. You find that what was terribly important to you once is irrelevant now. This tends to prove the point that change is the only certainty in life.

It’s a good thing, too. Magazine articles I have saved since 1976 naming new treatments for various ailments are not only considered obsolete now, but their advice might even kill you. The reverse is also true: For example, eating chocolate and drinking a glass or two of wine daily are now claimed to be healthy habits. I like that one.

I found schedules for cultural events dating from the 1980s that now seem quaintly old-fashioned, especially the admission fees charged for them. Ads for kids’ toys or clothing I had considered buying for the “grands” wouldn’t even apply to the “greats” by now, fashions and trends being what they are.

Telephone numbers saved “just in case” are now as out-of-date as “Operator, please ring up John Smith for me.” In fact, the old address book I found is now an historic archive of our past residences, acquaintances, doctors, dentists and veterinarians. Sadly, it is also a record of friends, relatives and neighbors who have passed away over the years.

Under the kitchen sink lay other revelations. There was a hand towel that disappeared long ago and cleaning supplies so old I think they have lost their toxicity (my contribution to environmental cleansing). Umpteen empty coffee cans to use as grease receptacles crowded the recesses, and disappointing cleaning inspirations I had purchased now sat half-empty and crusting.

The pantry cupboard revealed a 10-year-old box of cake flour and other seldom-used supplies, such as spices for previous gourmet experiments and packets of unidentified fish sauce. (Ugh!)

Closet scrutiny led me to wonder who are the people who belong to some of the clothes hanging here? Surely no one we know since they are the wrong sizes for our use today, not to mention any time in the last several years. They must be a sign of that syndrome that affects us all, as in “I’ll save that outfit for when I lose 20 pounds.”

God has kindly provided us with imagination and creativity, and sometimes the means and opportunities to use them. The results may vary from producing genius in art or prize-winning service to others to just plain accumulating memories.

Cleaning out the results of years of collecting can be so satisfying, making us feel virtuous in trying to simplify life. It also offers a meditative review of our past. Thank God for rainy days.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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