Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cleaning Day

It’s a cleaning day. That rare day when idleness (or neglect of duty) builds to a peak and I begin to devote myself in earnest to dusting, straightening, emptying old folders devoted to books that are now back from the printer and out in the bookstores, while simultaneously downloading a few things from Itunes, most notably some tracks from a new CD by the trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and his Colours of Jazz Orchestra. (The vocalist, an Italian woman named Diana Torto, evokes memories of the 1950s, with her Swingle Singer purity and agility.) Moving the table, I find, under a ream of typing paper and the wooden recycling box, some hand-made paper from another life that’s long since been flattened—and suddenly I want to make a hand-made book. Yes, but what would it be about? (And who would read it?)

I haul the tower from my old Gateway computer down to the basement. Why not? It isn’t connected to anything. As I’m clearing out a space for it I come upon a broadside I printed using old-fashioned “cold” type many years ago entitled “The Golden Sayings of Heraclitus.” Here are a few:

The sun is the width of a man’s foot.

Men who love wisdom should acquaint themselves with a great many particulars.

Although it is better to hide our ignorance, this is hard to do when relaxing over wine.

A man’s character is his guardian divinity.

Then the vacuum cleaner comes out of its closet. When I turn it on, orange lights appear on the handle signifying “extreme dirt.” I move the vacuum back and forth, but the lights never go out.

Daunting challenges remain—for example, to organize, label, and store all the data CDs that are lying around. But that could take hours. First I ought to thumb through the latest Daedalus catalogue which arrived in the mail a few minutes ago. It isn’t too early to order a discounted 2010 calendar, for example. I also notice a book translated by Stephen Mitchell called The Second Book of Tao, and there, on page 31, is The View from Castle Rock, by Alice Munro, whose work I’ve lost touch with in recent years.

Throughout this pleasant ordeal, which has gone on for hours now, I have a sneaking suspicion that I should be doing something else. Something more productive. On the other hand, as I shuffle and discard and file and rearrange, I feel that I'm looking at things that have been in my field of view for months, and actually seeing them for the first time. The experience is so strong and rich, I'm all but paralyzed.

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