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Margaret Bourke-White: "Atomic Number Thirteen" (1939)⁠

⁠"No longer simply SettlingInto, but here, home at last."

Nine weeks into this SettlingInto saga and we're still beset with boxes. Each week, we make a little headway, but after the earliest days, unpacking has remained an intermittent element of our lives here. I chose to leave my library in boxes until after repainting and flooring work's completed. I didn't relish restocking shelves just to have to tear them down again in a few weeks or even a few months. Consequently, we've developed blind spots. One opened box has stayed in the same place, half unpacked, since the early days, so long that its presence has become normal and therefore invisible. No urge to finish the job overtakes either of us. We hold higher priorities. The Muse invited a couple over for supper and insisted that we tidy up the place in preparation. I sensed a fierceness behind her request for a little help, knowing that I would be in for something. She jumped in before breakfast, focused. I joined in later, but since I was cooking and she, alone, held the grand intention, I got off easier, just vacuuming and cleaning my bathroom. Nine rooms and a grand staircase later, I felt less like a slacker. The only way I could imagine cleaning the shower was to take off my clothes and clean while showering, a semi-humiliating resolution.

The Muse reorganized the kitchen (again) while cleaning it. I found space to more permanently place clutter thriving on our inattention.
This really is a very big house with ample nooks and crannies, but with attention focused first on the yard, we'd left much of the interior to fend for itself. As rooms cleared, some became off limits. I didn't want to be accused of undoing any of The Muse's business, so I'd walk clear around the house rather than trod tracks through her kitchen. I avoided walking on the freshly combed carpet lest I leave tell-tale footprints where cat fur and dust so recently dominated. I caught myself kneeling to pinch a piece of something the vacuum had missed where the day before I could move through a room without even realizing that it existed. The finer focus elicited a different pride of ownership. I sensed that I was setting a stage rather than just Tidying, and I probably was.

I'll never tame the vacuum. It's ungainly, about a third too big for me, and features so many clever functions that I cannot ever remember how to invoke them. It stands upright only if I hold my mouth right, poising on a ball-like contraption, or supposed to, depending upon something unknowable. The hose extends in exclusively unuseful directions, forcing me to contort myself to accomplish anything with it. The stairs, the long grand staircase, demanded much manhandling to clean, and even then I was not quite satisfied with the result. Outside, I work hard to limit the amount of lawn crap, whatever might need moving to mow. Inside, even the furniture seems just so much lawn crap, much of it needing at least nudging for me to adequately complete the vacuuming job. It was a slog, but I found a few new nooks and crannies to move some clutter into and I'm learning where to find electrical outlets, which seem to have been installed in only the least convenient places. SettlingInto's a tedious and long term business. I hope I'll remember where I stuffed what in those frantic moments when I just wanted to finish vacuuming a room.

After, the place felt transformed. Who knows what our dinner guests thought when they saw the rolled up carpers in the corner and our absolute jumble of mismatched furniture, but we felt proud. About half the tour featured what we intend to accomplish but haven't gotten around to doing yet. Some of it focused upon the house's bones and its historical context. After all that Tidying, though, we ended up eating outside on the back deck. This, the Muse reported, due to a mix-up on where the table cloth she wanted to use was hidden. The deck worked well, though it was the only room on that floor that had not seen any Tidying that day. In the fading light, this didn't seem to matter. We had chatter to divert us and old friends appreciating our cooking, which seemed adequately fabulous as usual. Supper would have been no worse had we shirked that day, but that Tidying was not a worthless diversion. It more finely focused our attention upon where we find ourselves. No longer simply SettlingInto, but here, home at last.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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