Yesterday, I assigned myself the job of washing the floors by hand. It’s something I’ve done about twice in my life, always telling myself I should do it, but then opting instead for my handy-dandy Swiffer. But yesterday, I decided, no, I was going to do things right, so poured Murphy’s Oil Soap into a bucket, strapped on some knee pads and got to work. Soon, my job had graduated to wiping down floor boards and, eventually, it ended only because I ran out of Murphy’s Oil Soap.
I haven’t been social distancing for so long that I think this story is overly interesting, except that it does reflect a pattern in my life that has only surfaced since we’ve found ourselves in a global pandemic.
Being at home all the time has made me want to take extra-special care of our house and just about everything in it.
I realized this the day after I accidentally found my old incense burner, one that I’ve been lugging around since I moved out of my parents’ house. Heavy, not very pretty and not even very practical (the ashes tend to fall off the side), I’ve had it put away for years. But when I found that thing, you’d have thought I’d struck gold.
I promptly bought some nag champa and, buddy, I’ve been smelling like a hippy ever since. My new routine is to light up a stick every writing day.
Having that burner on my desk has prompted me to add other little gems from my childhood and teenage years. I borrowed a few of my stepdaughter Gabrielle’s Smurf figurines and have them displayed because they remind me of how much I coveted owning them as a kid. I added a tiny sculpture of a loon glued, inexplicably, on a piece of amethyst because my best friend Kristin gave it to me to remind me of Lake of the Woods. I added a soapstone inukshuk and the business card holder that still has my cards from The Sentinel. Then I added a cigar box my little brother Matthew gave me after a high school band trip to Havana, Cuba (incidentally, my school trip was to Quebec City, which is possibly the best metaphor for the difference between my and Matthew’s high school careers).
I look at these tokens every day and they make me ridiculously happy.
In the meantime, I’ve changed the location of where our luggage lives, which involved a lot of wistful staring. I’ve painstakingly unknotted my clump of old jewelry. I’ve organized my shoes, hats, bags and belts. I’ve overhauled the pantry and gotten excited about my new organization bins from T.J. Maxx. I’ve stared at our wood pile, feeling smug about the number of firepit Fridays it can fuel. I canned ketchup and pickles and eggplant, feeling extremely self-satisfied that I owned all of that equipment. Same goes for our camping supplies, which we haven’t used but we could if we wanted to.
Then, one day, I decided to take inventory of what we have in our freezer and not buy any more meat until we’d gone through it all. This proved such an eye-opening experiment (we had a lot more in there than I realized) that I not only decided to tell a few friends about it, I even had some generous ones who seemed interested by the effort.
I suppose all of it is a form of nesting, but, man, it seems to go deeper than that. It’s like constantly feeling like you’re stocking up for winter or before a blizzard. But it’s also about having a relationship with gratitude that is more intimate — and tangible — than it ever has been (I warned you I’d gone hippy). And then at night, when my little reorganization/reevaluation project is done and I haven’t really spent any money and the house is straighter than it was, I’m left with this soul-deep comfort.
The best thing is I know I’m not the only one. The other day, a lovely London woman named Margaret posted a photo on Facebook of “dumpster” patio furniture she scrubbed with a wire brush to remove the rust and then painted. It made a gorgeous little collection: two white chairs, a penny-green loveseat, a little round table topped with aged terra cotta pots.
I stared at this photo and thought, yes, that sums it up exactly: Turns out, nothing is undervalued during a pandemic.