“Order is the only possibility of rest.” Wendell Berry
After setting the bar high with Tennyson’s lofty resolutions yesterday, I decided to clean out my closet. Good choice. Found shirts that had been hiding in the clutter and managed to get a pile to bring to the thrift store. Now there’s room for them to breathe a bit and somehow that makes my breath a little freer as well. Then came the sweaters more neatly piled on the shelf and —why not?— into the drawers I went. Ferreted out the socks with holes in them and the underwear that would embarrass me if I got into an accident and had to be publicly stripped down. And then folding everything neatly, T-shirts by color, socks by thickness, nice little piles so that when I open the drawer, its contents sing to me, “See how nicely we’re in line? Aren’t you proud of us?”
On to cleaning the refrigerator, deciding on the surplus of sauces and condiments and scrubbing away tomato refuse and such. And now here’s another door to open and have its contents smile back. “Look! Here we are! You can see us and remember we’re here and hey, wouldn’t you like a little chili sauce tonight? Don’t think you’ve opened me for over two years and as you can see, I’m patient. But don’t you think now’s the time?”
By now the desk drawers got wind of what was happening and started whimpering, “Hey, don’t forget us!” There was a full-scale movement afoot and I had to try to shush them up before the file drawers heard what was going on. And if word ever got down to the basement, with my thousand plus records, Orff T-shirts stuffed in a box, tax records from the beginning of the IRS, workshop notes from over 40 years and crates of trivia that I can’t quite give up yet (don’t even want to think about the cassette tapes), I’d be a goner. Been saving such projects for a rainy day, but it would take a monsoon season and hey, we’re still in a drought.
But I have to admit, it makes me happy to walk into my closet, open my drawers, peek inside the refrigerator— order indeed offers a sense of rest from the chaos of the world. And it was a pleasure to revisit my lost clothes and foodstuffs, bid a few farewell and renew my relationship with the keepers. We can’t make the rain come, we can’t stop the media from broadcasting Trump, we can’t solve all of our lifelong issues that keep haunting us. But by God, we can organize my sock drawer! We’re in control, we make progress, we make decisions, we do something worthwhile that gives us pleasure for a few days.
Because the moment we rest on our laurels and savor the well-earned rest of order re-established, then it’s time to live again. And at the end of a busy day, the clothes get thrown helter-skelter, the desk gets messy with creative work, the refrigerator looks more like a teenager’s room than a military marching formation. Life goes on.
Until it’s time to clean again.