Household archeology, or spring cleaning

Dear Uma: It may officially be spring, but in the Yukon we still have lots of snow and ice, though the Alaska Highway is mostly bare and the emergence of beer cans has begun.

Dear Uma:

It may officially be spring, but in the Yukon we still have lots of snow and ice, though the Alaska Highway is mostly bare and the emergence of beer cans has begun.

The continuing evidence of winter is not, however, a deterrent to those of us who spring clean. I am one of the spring cleaners who rush into getting it done; my personal objective being the promise of freedom from major chores in time to enjoy our brief, heady summer.

Being limited to indoor tasks meant my closet was the target all this week, with the imperative being a need to make some room for the many new articles of clothing I purchased while under the influence of Lari in Seattle.

During the fairly massive excavation of things from the closet I have made many discoveries, the first one being that somewhere, sometime, it was determined that my closet was the logical place for a variety of things; it has been rather like an archaeological dig, with items unrelated to covering the human body coming to light for the first time in several years.

I found a set of wrenches that Pete had looked for in every imaginable place on the property before giving up and replacing them.

I found one of our cordless phones, and a Crown Royal bag of loonies and toonies.

A favourite coffee mug showed up, and a couple of Pampers which baffled me until I remembered a visit from a friend with an infant – in 2007. Hopefully that same visit is the explanation for the soother, but cannot be the reason for the hairband with a big dotted bow on one side, or the box of ballpoint pens with an ad for Jake’s Diner and Hot Spot, Detroit, Michigan.

I have never been to Michigan and neither has Pete.

The Valentine’s Day lingerie was found again, with Pete’s favourite lure caught in the fake fur. We found sunglasses with hot pink frames and some vitamins and a bag of hair rollers still in their package.

I found a DVD called Paul Ekman’s Micro Expressions Training Tool and another one that showed behind the scenes footage of Cirque du Soleil – good things to keep for next winter when CBC TV lets us down. There were some dog toys from the brief time of being dog owners; a find that gave me a few moments of sadness. There was one thing unearthed that will likely puzzle us for a long time and has puzzled everyone that has seen it: it is made of red lacquered wood, with a sort of bellows of fine white leather. The object is about six inches long and four across and has what looks like a breathing hole in the upper edge. Neither Pete nor I have ever seen anything like it anywhere, ever, and if you or yours can come up with an idea of what it might be, we would be grateful.

It was interesting to note that every single item in the closet was covered with cat hair. Amisi brought a whole new element into our household when she began to shed, which was shortly after she came to live with us and it didn’t take long to realize she was going to shed most of the year. We got used to it; to removing hair from our brunch muffins and from the inside of our tea cups, and to checking one another’s clothing for clumps of fur before leaving the house. The ceiling fan is always arranging clots of feline fur; on top of the blades of the fan itself, on the tops of picture frames and on window sills. It clings to magazines and books and is often found inside the pages. Somehow, it has even been found in the pockets of jackets and sweaters.

The trucks are the only relatively hair-free environment left in our domestic life and somehow I’d assumed my closet, too, would be safe; the doors are conscientiously kept closed for that very reason, but there were cat hairs on stuff that Amisi has never seen in the two years she has shared our abode.

The other thing I learned from this endeavour is that I don’t buy clothes for how they make me look; it seems I buy clothes for themselves, for their own intrinsic attractiveness. I buy things first for fabric and then for colour; whether the fabric is practical, or the colour suits me seems to not be a consideration. Next, I am drawn to details, like fine sewn-down pleats, perfectly finished seams, beautiful buttons or clever hardware like zippers and buckles. It is no wonder that I find it next to impossible to put together any sort of ‘look’. I like my clothes not for how they look on me but for how I feel looking at them, and it has struck me that this may not be the best way to fill my wardrobe.

Throughout this week of discovery I have had the radio on CBC and so have kept abreast of these busy times. After five days of CBC it is hard to imagine there is a place on the planet that is not in some sort of distress. It makes me appreciate more fully than ever the fact of our existence here, at this time, free of snipers and bombs, tsunamis and earthquakes, nuclear disasters and rampant disease. Our biggest concern is the looming federal election.

Truthfully, I can’t work up much steam on the election. I have lost faith that voting leads to change, or that the national parties differ much, one from another. I will cast my ballot in the spirit of active citizenship, but I will do so without much belief that anything will be made different.

An on-air hour of information on rising food costs took me through the task of washing the floor of the closet and giving the shelves a good wipe down. Food prices jumped 3.9 per cent in February; the largest one-month increase since November of 1974, we were told, and costs are going to continue to rise particularly on stuff like bananas – 21 per cent, and bacon – 17 per cent. This is sad news indeed for those of us who relish a toasted banana and bacon sandwich once in awhile, but the really harsh news is aimed at beer drinkers; the drought in Russia that has made the price of barley inflate by nearly 50 per cent. Global crop failures combined with rising demand have boosted wheat and corn up 75 per cent as well.

I refused to allow this news to get me down, dwelling instead on the upside of rising food costs: obesity may well become a thing of the past, and good riddance!

I listened to a program on airport security and so was able to contribute in an informed manner to a discussion that evolved at a gathering I attended shortly after coming back from Seattle. However, an individual there came up with possibly the best solution I have ever heard:

All airline passengers and their luggage, all freight, all airport personnel coming to work, could be expected to walk through a specially constructed room before accessing the terminal. There would be sensors that would detect the presence of any explosive material and then detonate it. Problem solved, cheaply and without the ongoing costs of imprisonment, trials, deportations, etc. etc.

What do you think? Is it not almost elegant in its simplicity, its thoroughness?

So, that’s been my week, and even though I know yours has been largely to do with mares foaling, I would welcome a reply. I would also like to remind you that when I ask you to send a picture of ‘the baby’ I am not referring to the latest foal, but to the new grandchild.



Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.

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