I have always admired people who think of a project, and then sit down and do it. I don’t operate that way at all – which may explain a lot of things about my life, when I come to think of it. But for me, it goes like this: I think of a project. I ponder it, and see it already done, and enjoy the imaginary fruits of having done it. This euphoria lasts for some little time, while the horrid reality looms on the horizon, like some large, hairy creature bouncing around, demanding to be dealt with. Time passes. I say to myself – I really have to do that…. I really do have to do that…. I REALLY MUST DO THAT…. And then one day, out of the blue, often at quite an inconvenient time, something seizes me, and I begin to do it. And then it’s done and a warm, fuzzy feeling sets in, and lasts for some time.
Such it was with a bookcase in my new office.
My new office used to be Gerry’s office, and before that, in its original incarnation, it was a porch. As I mentioned once before, when this old house was built, literally about a hundred years ago, it was a little, adobe Arizona ranch house, surrounded on all four sides by a screened porch, for sleeping on hot summer nights, and, on the kitchen side, for keeping various kitchen items like, I imagine, the meat safe, or perhaps the odd block of ice. I know this by the fact that outside my bedroom door is a barbeque! Surely an odd place for a barbeque? Not when you grasp the history of the house.
When we bought the ranch, the porch was no longer on all four sides of the house, two sides having been swallowed by a bedroom on one side and an added living room on the other – but two sides remained. Sometime after we moved in, we glassed in both porches, and Gerry made the north side his office. The east side became, I am sad to say, a sort of catch all, mainly for some sprawling indoor plants, then more plants in the winter, and also for the hot tub. As the plants lacked some tender loving care, and the hot tub looked like most hot tubs look, it wasn’t a particularly inviting space – and it was fully visible through a window in an alcove in the adjoining living room. The view was not at all pleasing – the dusty hot tub lid, the scruffy plant, and then an expanse of a red tile floor, looking unappetizingly bare and empty. At one time the other end housed a scruffy sofa, on which slept Gerry’s cattle dog, Molly, who was at that time raising my Anatolian puppy, Sasha, later to be known as Moose. Sadly, neither of them is with us any longer – but the memory of them on that leaky old sofa on that tired porch remains. But you know how you get used to living with something, and, after a while, don’t even notice it? So it was for me with the porch.
Some time ago my step daughter from Australia, Sally, who has a wonderful decorating sense, eyed the porch through the living room window and said “You know, that would be so much nicer if you made a French door to that porch from the living room and made a little sitting area out there….” Because I love to build (and those of you who enjoyed Grapevine owe the place to this trait, which Gerry and I both shared, a passion for building) – no sooner said than done. As soon as Sally and husband Craig left for Down Under, I called the builder, and the door was in. The result is really attractive – the hot tub was exiled to the other end, some wicker furniture was moved into the living room end, a couple of rugs, a fountain and some bamboo blinds were installed – and presto – a beautiful porch for whiling away long spring and fall evenings – I don’t know about winter yet, and forget the summer! Hot as a pistol out there right now. But for some 6-8 months of the year it is a most superior place to sit, listen to music and watch the birdies, whose feeders and bird bath are right outside.
That left the other end, Gerry’s old office. When he died, we moved his desk out, and the space became, a bit like the other, a repository of all unwanted bits from the house. My office, as distinct from his, was the room adjoining the sitting room, where I kept a small, stylish desk, more for show than for actual use, and some filing cabinets, which eventually became a catch all for all the paper rubbish of the world. It is also the 2nd spare bedroom, with an off the wall bed, so that when additional company came, a lot of the office stuff had to be moved in order to get the bed down…. very unhandy.
Until Grapevine closed. Then it became evident that a lot more “stuff” had to be housed in that office, and that the present system just wouldn’t do. In one of those rare, inspired moments, it came to me that the office would be best turned again into a bedroom for that odd guest, and, furthermore, that some of the pretty indoor plants at Grapevine, for which I had to find a home, could also be housed there, by the windows. This last came to me as a sort of revelation, a bit like a shackled convict suddenly finding himself free to move, because you have to know that Gerry adamantly hated indoor plants, and, though he was too nice to object too violently, he called them “weeds” and huffed and puffed when he happened to stumble across some – so for twenty five years all indoor plants were banned from the house. But suddenly it dawned on me that I could, actually, have the darn things in the house again, and, furthermore, wherever I wanted them! So – the fancy desk was given away, a huge old jade plant and some kind of palm from the Grapevine front office were moved in, and, while the room is still in the process of being completed, I am happy with what I already foresee to be a pleasing result. It will be known, of course, as The Weed Room, which was Gerry’s name for any room which boasted so much as a geranium in the window.
So that left a need for an office – and where else, but in Gerry’s old space, the original north porch! (A bit like musical chairs, isn’t it? Are you still with me?) We moved in an office desk, my Grapevine computer, some file cabinets, I put up curtains, and it is a most agreeable place in which to work. One wall houses a large white board where Gerry had all sort of maps and stuff – that wall has on it now about a zillion photographs of him in various occupations – I was lucky enough to have had a guest here over some twenty years who took a lot of photos, and she gave me many of them when he died – so that it seems as if he is still with me.
But this all began by my telling you about jobs not done and then done, didn’t it? This particular job was a book case in the new office which Gerry had Jimmy build many years ago, and which had, over time, become filled with unbelievable “stuff” – old papers, files, books, dust, fluff – just awful. Whenever you couldn’t find a place to stuff something, it went in there. So, now, ever since I took up abode in my new headquarters, I eyed that bookshelf with sorrow, thinking, one of these days…..
The day came yesterday. The TV room is right next door, so, with it turned way up so I could depress myself further, I slid into the cleaning a bit like one slides into cold water, a bit at a time. I began by sorting off about a thousand old music cassettes – yes, cassettes! That’s how long it had been dormant. It was a bit like digging in an archeological site. All kinds of artifacts came to light, some items occasioning a pleased “Oh look, so that’s where it was!” And some “Why on earth did we get this!” I filled two huge trash bags with rubbish, cleaned the shelves, put the books on them in order, and then, inspired by this effort, moved to the TV room next door. Apart from the television, this room also houses two wall to wall book cases filled with books, papers and, horrid thought, photo albums and loose photos flung there with the thought “One of these days…”
So again, the day was yesterday. I sat on the sofa, listening to some political garbage on TV, and sorted old photos. The result is unbelievable – not one room, but two rooms done, cleaned, sorted …. I was so busy that I quite forgot to eat anything until 4:30 in the afternoon, as Danny, with whom I normally eat lunch, was off, and I was left to my own culinary devices. So around 5 or so I ate two hot dogs, mixed a well deserved gin and tonic, and sat back to enjoy the fruit of my labors.
I know this is likely to be boring to most of you – but think of it as an inspiration – and, if you are one of these people who put off things, try my method of sneaking up on a job by surprise, when it least expects you! It’s fun, rewarding and brings with it a warm fuzzy glow of achievement.