Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reading & Organizing

I've been re-organizing big parts of the house, this past month. Sometimes when you go away for a few weeks, you come back and know right away what needs to be changed. I've got a few more photos I'm going to hang on the mostly bare walls. I've lived here now between 2 and 3 years, and it's starting to actually feel like "my" home for the first time. So naturally one wants to re-arrange things that, when moving in, inevitably just got thrown in place to keep them out of mind and off the floor. I have a lot of filing of old papers to do, still; that's piled up for months.

On the other hand, I realized this past week (again) that I needed to cut myself some slack, as in truth I've been very ill for about six months: I was very sick, so sick for part of that time that I couldn't get anything done. I remind myself not to feel like a slacker, because in fact I haven't been. For a guy who's been ill, I've actually gotten a lot done. You have to keep reminding yourself of these facts, periodically: I'm learning that this is part of the process of coping with chronic illness.

Over the past few days I built some more bookshelves, got the dormant (over winter, and while I was on the last roadtrip) tools in the garage ready to work on some more woodworking projects, and prepared for the next few months' efforts. I also went through my plans for my garden plots this year; I want to try planting a wildflower patch, which ought to be self-sustaining once established. I also have a couple of more organizing projects in the basement that I half-started before the roadtrip, that I can finish now, both around the workbench and involving better shelving for future art projects.

Yesterday in the bedroom I reorganized all the poetry bookshelves. They'd been rather haphazard. I realize I can start going through all my books again soon, and do another round of deciding what to weed out, what to sell, what to pass on to the local library book sale. If you don't need to keep something, don't. There are a few duplicates in the poetry shelves—that keeps happening, because you sometimes forget you have a certain volume already—that I'll sell off. There were a few novels that friends gave me that I don't want to keep around, having either read them or decided not to. You weed out as you sort through.

I rearranged the poetry shelves to be more categorized. The High Moderns (Eliot, Cummings, Moore, etc.) are all gathered in one corner now; all the Neruda and Paz and George Mackay Brown have been pulled together; I had a lot more each than I realized; all the modern Greeks are grouped together now; I had a lot more Seferis than I realized, too. Sorting through the books makes you want to dip into them again, or read deeper. Pulling out the poetry books you start re-reading your favorites; but you also find yourself wanting to get around to reading that Collected Poems of a poet you know less about, and picked up on spec last year, but hadn't really gotten into yet.

You remind yourself that you already have a treasure horde to dig into whenever the mood strikes. Here's that Stanley Kunitz collected you've been meaning to read; especially the very late poems. Here's an anthology from the 1970s, an overview but also a slice of poetry history. Here's all the Lorca together, all the Whitman, all the Cavafy. Here's all the other gay poets gathered in their own place, from Assotto Saint to Thom Gunn to those post-AIDS anthologies that are hard to read because it seems like half the poets have died too early now. Here's all the May Sarton you've decided to keep, all the journals, most of the poems, and the novels you find yourself re-reading periodically. Reading is re-reading at least half the time.

Now I can find everything again.

Maybe this is all spring cleaning. At the very least, it's spring reorganizing: part of the process of coming back to life. Of feeling able to make art again, after a long illness. Organizing the visual space reduces the mental clutter. It also makes it easier to have my tools at hand, so I can right to it, if the urge is there. No wasting precious energy on set-up; just get right to the art-making.

Now it feels like my head is clearer, and ready to get back to work.

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