Sunday, February 28, 2010

Scent of a Skunk Part II

I thought it would be one of the dogs who had the first skunk encounter, but no, it was me!

Driving down the hill, I saw a black spot on the snow. As I got closer, I could see that it was furry and moving. I was too close to stop, so I straddled the small animal. I thought for a few minutes I had escaped the spray, but no. It just took that long for the aroma to penetrate from my car's undercarriage.

For days now, my dogs have loved the car even more. Other cars don't like to park near us. Never one to name my cars, I'm thinking this one may be christened Pepe Le Pew.

Making Space

I’m sitting in my study, a strange and jumbled room, the last in the house papered in one of the tiny florals beloved by the last owner. It is the least offensive of the tiny florals, which is probably why it has lasted this long. Functional in a haphazard way, the room has too much furniture and is the only reasonable place in the house for the treadmill. I’m looking at the room, and I’m trying to figure out what would make it a more pleasant place to sit on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Clearly the first step is to move out everything that is not immediately important to the room’s best use. (We will work around the treadmill for now.) Since I am no longer attempting to run a business from this room, I don’t need as many shelves, but which should go? The tall ones that add a library feel? Or the waist-high deeper ones that accommodate piles of paperwork so nicely? Is there room somewhere for a cozy chair for reading here? Is it time to give up on my tall armoire that was made from a kit and still is missing its doors? Should I put some of the shelves in the closet? Can I really work around the treadmill? Will I ever know what storage I need unless I actually sort out piles of old paperwork?

So many questions, but only one real answer: clear out the old. Only then will it be possible to imagine the new. I’m craving a new house project, something that takes my personal space to a new level of function and comfort, but I can’t see my way to it. For now, it’s prep work and waiting for inspiration—my least favorite (though essential) part of the creative process.

Funny, I didn’t see the answer before I started writing, but now I do. Not the whole answer, not yet. But it is time for the last of the tiny florals to go. I have the wallpaper already, purchased when I moved in almost eight years ago. A mellow yellow with a small abstract repeat, suitable for a study or a bedroom. I think the armoire goes upstairs, maybe the treadmill, too. Keep the tall shelves, and move them to a different wall, no longer in front of the second bathroom door. Put one set of the lower shelves in the closet, the other two out in the mudroom, which needs more function of its own. Give away extra electronic equipment. Clear out, clean up, wallpaper and paint. It’s a plan.

I wish the shape of my new life were as easy to discern. In a strange twist, I was accused last week of “liking my job too much.” I do like my job a lot. I think I am well suited to it. I like getting out into the community and finding out about projects, then doing what I can to help them along. I like my colleagues. I pad around in my sock feet most of the day, leading some of my colleagues to offer to take up a collection to buy me shoes. And most of all, I like that part where every two weeks, the federal government zaps money into my bank account. Whoo-ee! I think long term federal employees have lost track of the value of a regular paycheck and outstanding benefits, but it is all new and exciting to me.

Yes, I like my job, and I like my routine of walking in the early morning. I like my commute, and I am re-adjusting to having forty hours of my week scheduled for me. But it’s the rest of it I can’t quite envision yet. Who do I hang around with? What thoughts and dreams and activities make me who I will be? It’s stunning how much of our lives change with the change of a job.

One thing I am letting go is the church I have attended more off than on for the past eight years. I was there pretty religiously for a year, then got busy with economic development and lapsed, and finally went back about a year ago. The people are pleasant enough, though not particularly friendly, but then we are in New England. But I am missing there the hands-on connection to the broader community and the intellectual exchange that I had in a past church experience. I kept hoping that I would come to appreciate this church for what it is, but the spark doesn’t seem to be there, at least not for me. Time to stop. Time to open up that time in the week and see what new feathered thing presents itself in my life. Doing the same thing over and over doesn’t leave room for hope or for charity.

I wonder, is there something I am missing? Is there something I need to finish in order to be able to move forward? I really don’t know, and all I can do is clear out the old in order to make room for what is to come. This in itself is an exercise in hope.

Meanwhile, I think I will move out furniture and get rid of that last tiny print wallpaper. Then maybe I will be able to see the possibilities.