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Saturday, March 24, 2012


I can only imagine what it might be like to keep an orderly house. Mine is disorderly—not in the legal sense, which I think equals a house of ill repute. Just messy. The public rooms are tidy enough, if not always free of dust. But the corners and closets upstairs are defined by clutter.


I'd like to say I struggle with this, but that's much too active a verb. I ponder it—that's closer to the truth. And occasionally (this is quite an active approach, for me) I add to my day's to-do list some tiny solution to an even tinier part of the problem.


Recently, for example, I decided that every day (which has turned out to be every other day, or even every third day) I would remove all the jars and bottles from one of the shallow shelves near the back door, wash the shelf, wash the jars and bottles if they needed it (a subjective decision, for sure) and then replace everything neatly onto the now-clean shelf. This is terrific. So far I've done two shelves—the two at mid-level, the two most clearly visible to the casual observer. The rest remain to be done. It takes no more than ten minutes per shelf—and I just now realized that I frittered away a whole afternoon yesterday when I could at least have cleaned one more shelf. Ah, well. I'll keep putting it on the list.


Recently I tackled another area of mess, and that led to the discovery of what I call the "Piles System" of home management. More and more self-help books are available these days on how to clean your house, how to fold your laundry, how to fill a bucket with water (no, that last one is a joke). Obviously these books are aimed at young women whose own mothers rebelled, beginning in the late 60s, against the drudgery of housework. They thus failed to teach their children (boys as well as girls) how to maintain a house. (My own mother was many years ahead of the curve; she failed to teach us housekeeping skills as early as the 40s and 50s.)


So the time is right for me to make my "Piles System" available to a wide audience. Please do not confuse my System with the more common "pile" technique of making stack after stack of unfiled and unfile-able papers. That's just slovenliness. My system is methodical.


The idea came to me when I undertook to clear the eight-inch high stack of papers on top of the two-drawer filing cabinet in my little room. Item by item I sorted through them. Some of the papers had been in the pile so long that they had lost their relevance, so I was able to toss them. (Any papers with one side blank will be used in the computer's printer.) Thank-you cards for dinner parties are always appreciated when they arrive in the mail, and I used to keep them forever ("Dear Ann & Dean—What a wonderful evening that was. The food was delicious. I particularly liked the smoked cod cheeks . . ." and so forth.) But now I was taking a more rigorous approach.


Piece by piece I whittled down the pile. Quite a few items were set aside for the "Friends and Family" folder in my filing cabinet, a folder that itself has become a massive collection that needs its own day of reckoning. And as I filed items I came across dead folders holding clutches of paper I would never look at again. These papers became one-side-blank additions to the computer printer stack, thereby loosening the crush of file folders in the drawer.


When I finished sorting that eight-inch pile of papers on top of the filing cabinet, I trotted from room to room disposing of the resulting stacks: the recycling bin, printer paper, cards useful for crafts. Finally I was left with eight pictures that I had removed from god-only-knows-what-photo-album for a workshop project. I don't know how to find their original album homes, so those eight pictures now sit on top of my dresser.


Here is the beauty of the "Piles System." These homeless pictures are forming the basis for a new pile. Leftovers from sorting are like a yogurt culture. From them will grow a new set of papers. But by moving this "culture" to a new location, I ensure that the top of my filing cabinet will remain uncluttered even as I watch the new pile grow on the top of my dresser.


Over time, the continuous re-positioning of piles moves the clutter from one room to another, which keeps the eye fresh. I'm going to be copyrighting this system, just as soon as I find the copyright application form. It's in a pile somewhere . . .


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Trembling with Spring

Spring. What is it? To spring is to leap and bounce. A spring is a rippling water source. A spring is a Slinky, a coiled bouncer, a support for my mattress. To spring is to be indulgent ("I'll spring for that").


Spring. Sprang. Sprung. Gerard Manley Hopkins created sprung rhythms in his poetry. He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle…. It might as well be spring.


Oh, all RIGHT! Spring. Spring is here. Or maybe spring is here. Too early by half, say the cranky people, who also say, "You'll be smiling on the other side of your faces come the May blizzard, when all your nascent species tulips will turn to limp rags under winter's last hurrah."


How I spent my spring vacation: I berated myself for not going outside to rake, to prune the clematis, to cut back the rampaging vinca minor (why didn't I listen when they said it was invasive?), to admire the crocuses and other optimistic little guys poking their colorful heads through the neighborhood oak leaves that all ended up in my little front garden.


And then, before I even have the chance to acknowledge that spring has indeed, once again, sprung—it is over. The pretty bulb garden moves on to another phase. The weather goes from still-too-cold or a-little-too-wet-for-my-taste to the steamy hot days of summer.


Life is moving more quickly than it used to, have you noticed? Time's rhythms have changed. And the effect on us is that we are all whirling to this new rhythm, faster and faster. When you spin a spoked bicycle wheel very quickly, the spokes blur with the speed. Then, within that blur, you can see a slow-moving echo of the turning spokes. Could it be that within our own whirling, spinning race to keep up with the new rapid-time that we live in—within that spin we are ourselves experiencing a very slow, leisurely echo?


Time is moving more quickly, as are our lives. But within that new speed is an equally new languid quality to our internal rhythms. Could it be? Can we now say that everything fast is slow again? Picture again that image of the spinning bicycle wheel. The blur of the spinning spokes gives rise to the beautiful slow circling at the heart of the wheel.


Something to contemplate as spring comes springing by us once again.



Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Remembering the Dream That Remembers You

She visited a friend whose brother was celebrating a birthday, though she never learned his age. Mid- to late- thirties, she thought he was. To honor the occasion, the brother had orchestrated a full music and dance show, directing his friends as well as hired performers in a musical fete.


She sat on a bench near the front. The performance took place in a sunny meadow, which, having been recently mown, smelled of green grass stems.


A group of eight singers came first. Wearing vaguely Elizabethan dress, they sang (oh, so beautifully and in such delicious harmonies) a medley of Shakespearean songs, beginning and ending with "O mistress mine, where are you roaming?" As they sang they leaned in to each other and then varied the arrangement, forming a fluid series of delightful living tableaux.


And then dancers appeared in the background, costumed individually but similarly, in earthen tones. They danced with simple steps and with much energy, at one point moving sideways in a line before her as they stared intently into her eyes.


She awoke remembering colors and smells and ethereal sounds that she hoped would accompany her throughout her waking day.


Can a dream simply be, and not be forced to carry a meaning?

Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Upcoming Consecrated Free-for-all

It's Spring! Re-awakening. Renewal. Rebirth. So let's re-think a few things.


Let's throw out the stick-in-the-muds, those in sober black. Let's throw out the preachers whose somber words evoke eternal punishment, who create fear of the wrath of God. Let's throw out those black and gloomy thou-shalt-nots. Throw them out, I say, and let the fun begin.


Start with color. There's nothing forbidding about color. Sun-color. Sky-color. The red of the autumn maples. The parti-colored greens of mixed forest and dappled meadow. The light of the silvery moon.


Let 'er rip, is what I'm trying to say. In the service of Spirit, in the glory of the Lord, let it all explode in a dance of joy. Make this day—this moment—a time of prayerful joy. Or is it joyful prayer? Well, aren't they really the same thing, prayer and joy? Open it up. Enter into it. A free-for-all. A donnybrook of color running riot through the town.


Every soul is dressed in its brightest garments. Every soul colorfully displays its ties to Spirit, wearing horizontal stripes, diagonal stripes, hearts and stars, squiggles, flowers and leaves, and plaids of all stripes. Colorful design is one way we connect to the divine. Design. Divine. See how they rhyme? They obviously belong together. We want swirls and straights and spirals and circles, squares and cubes and diamonds, crystalline growths, and lines that mimic broken grass-stems. We want to dance together until the whirling colors become the blinding light of the eternal.


Let 'er rip! I said. Let the games begin. Dance till you drop. Make music with your feet, your hands, your throat. Make music of swish and jump, stretch and bend, yodel and howl.


What's to lose, after all? Why would we NOT celebrate in a free-for-all? Is it undignified? Dignity has brought us nowhere but here. It's definitely time to let go of "dignified." Bring on the glory of movement and color. Bring on the clanging of cymbals, the timbrel and dancing, trumpets, clarion calls, shrill two-fingered whistles, hoots and ululations and screeches of joy.


Let 'er rip, I say.



Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor