mowing, raking, pulling weeds
After almost 2 months of preparing for, then waiting, then watching it happen, the house is finally painted. Now I can mow and garden and bring out the umbrella for the deck. Hooray! Since I knew I should have a day off from running — having run 4 days in a row, I decided to do yardwork today.
Yardwork. And now the yardwork is over (it is never over), today’s
Stint anyway. Odd jobs, that stretch ahead, wide and mindless
–“Hymn to Life”/ James Schuyler
Today it feels like summer but the backyard looks like early spring. Tulips in full bloom, peonies popping up with their green shoots that look like asparagus — at least to me. Big bare patches from where robins had dropped crabapple seeds in late winter. Dandelions, garlic mustard, creeping charlie, the half-mulched leaves left over from late fall.
I listened to a Maintenance Phase episode — Oprah v. the beef industry — while I mowed and raked and swept up scattered mulch.
10 Things I Noticed
- everywhere, in the back and front yards, the ground seemed soft — too soft. is it the ants?
- right next to the front step, a giant mound — an ant hill
- the soft metallic whirr of the reel mower blades
- the distinctive thunk of the blade getting jammed from a small twig
- strange — bare vines by the yucca bushes — is this ground cover dead/dying, or have the leaves not appeared yet. is it the ants?
- the sloped front lawn, soft and bare, a few patches of weeds, some suspicious looking soft dirt. is it the ants?
- weeds infiltrating the red and yellow tulips on the south side of the house
- a few bright green leaves growing on the hydrangea twigs
- some small maple leaves poking out from the spirea
- small asparagus-like stalks emerging from the earth — time to put the cages around the peonies before they get too big to tame!
Mary Ruefle and Washing Dishes
In the opening lines of “Towards a Carefree World,” Ruefle writes:
Many of the most astonishing writers in the world had ser-
vants. It is doubtful they ever really washed the dishes.
Which is too bad; I think they would have enjoyed wash-
ing the dishes, especially after dinner. Repetitive motion
can take your mind off things. By things I mean the cares
of this world.
With these lines, I decided to think about washing dishes.
Mother, Washing Dishes/ Susan Meyers
She rarely made us do it—
we’d clear the table instead—so my sister and I teased
that some day we’d train our children right
and not end up like her, after every meal stuck
with red knuckles, a bleached rag to wipe and wring.
The one chore she spared us: gummy plates
in water greasy and swirling with sloughed peas,
globs of egg and gravy.
Or did she guard her place
at the window? Not wanting to give up the gloss
of the magnolia, the school traffic humming.
Sunset, finches at the feeder. First sightings
of the mail truck at the curb, just after noon,
delivering a note, a card, the least bit of news.
What the Living Do/ Marie Howe
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through
the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,
I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.
Mostly I like washing dishes. It’s a chance to move after a meal, or as a break from writing. I listen to a podcast — Maintenance Phase, Ali on the Run, Vs., Between the Covers — or an audio book while I soak then scrub then rinse. Sometimes I look out the window at the trees swaying in the wind or the sky glowing orange or a squirrel taunting my dog. Occasionally, but not often, I shatter a dish on the granite countertop.
Usually I can see well enough to properly clean the dirty dishes. Sometimes I rely on feel — if it’s smooth, it’s clean; if it’s rough, it’s dirty. My biggest struggle is with the metal cheese grater. I hold it under the light, tilt it in different directions, trying to see if I missed any streaks of cheese. Almost impossible for me to tell.
We have a dishwasher but it hasn’t been working properly for 2 or 3 years now so I hand wash the dishes. Sometimes I wish our dishwasher worked, sometimes I don’t care. Often I wonder if washing dishes will be one more thing lost to me once all of my central vision is gone.
I don’t remember washing too many dishes with my mom, but I do remember drying them for Scott’s mom and dad after dinner. They always had to do the dishes right after eating. It took me years (15? 20?) to finally feel comfortable enough to help them. They were very particular about how you should wash dishes — don’t waste water, make sure they are absolutely dry before putting any dishes away, use a drying cloth that doesn’t leave lint but also doesn’t dry anything. When they both stopped caring about the dishes and how they were done, I knew we were entering the final stage.
Our kitchen faucet had been dying for three or four years. First, it dripped when you turned it off. Sometimes, if I jiggled it just right, it would almost stop. For at least 3 years this happened. Then, the retractable hose started getting stuck. You could pull it out, but not put it back in. Then you couldn’t move it from one sink to the other. Finally, the whole faucet — base and all — wouldn’t stop moving and leaking water into the cabinet below. When this happened Scott abruptly declared it was time, right this minute, to go out a buy a new faucet. So we did. And when we returned home Scott removed the old faucent, which was hard to get out, and put in the new one, which slid in without a problem. Why, I wondered, had we waited so long to get a new faucet?