It may not be on a par with bird migration or a stag in rut, but the pull on humans to clean up, throw out and reckon with winter’s misdeeds becomes nearly irresistible around about the vernal equinox.
Stuff needs to be done and the time is now, so says the slanted angle of the sun.
The two tracks of road sand need to be swept out of the garage. The shelves lining the walls with their various guest-related toys and beach paraphernalia come in for their annual reevaluation. Do we need two sets of sand castle building tools?
I’m not focused on the spring’s crop of cobbies, but my wife is borderline obsessed. I grant you there have been times when it seemed the house would become unstable without the spider webs tying the structure tightly together. But the wispy cobbies under and behind the big pieces of furniture? I get that. I simply find somewhere else to be when that is going on.
The water has to be turned on to the so-called Cottage, the visitor lair above the Shed, where the garden stuff lives along with two fat, inflated rings for kids’ play on Wades Beach. They were blown up at Jack’s almost a decade ago and have not lost a single ounce of air pressure since, whereas the elaborate bike tire valves hanging nearby can’t keep it together for a couple of months. Explanation, please.
There is general yard cleanup to do, which has always been the purview of Butch and his guys. Early on I bought a weed-whacker, but truth to tell there’s hardly any more whackable weeds left. A leaf blower was never on my radar, nor was a chainsaw. But on a Christmas Eve, of all days, I was dragooned to Zippy Reeves’ place by a life companion and found myself buying one.
Granted, there was some stuff that needed to come down, nothing big, just junk, which I did over a weekend. During my Vermont years I would roam my managing editor’s sizable wood lot and tackle just about anything, barely missing serious injury one time. Now the contraptions scare the dickens out of me. I think I used it one other time. Whenever my eyes rest on it, the saw murmurs, audibly, but perhaps only to me, the words “yard sale.”
We have used the Goody Pile only sporadically over the years. But this year, my wife had targeted a medium-size storage area snuck into the wall of the visitors’ bedroom upstairs. I have poked my head in there a couple of time over the years and have been amazed at the junky quality of this collection. She had filled the floor with all manner of things that she was proposing for the Pile. With two exceptions, sacred objects of mine she knowingly kept safely in the closet, I would have approved the array’s riddance blind-folded.
I wound up taking to the dump 20 ornate picture frames, some empty and some filled with rural and water scenes so bad and kitschy that I could imagine certain New City bar owners really wanting them. (These art works did not come from my side of the family.) Also on the load were two Dhurry rugs, in fine condition, and other odds and ends. Other than the rugs, pretty dreary stuff.
When I pulled up there were a half-dozen women milling about because the Pile was nearly devoid of Goodies. Their eyes lifted as I delivered my first load of frames. I dropped them off and headed back to the car. By the time I got back, the frames had been scooped up in an apparent sharing protocol to tamp down on turf battles among the pickers. After my last load I glanced back to see all of our castoffs had been appropriated.
The most remarkable drop-off at the dump wasn’t at the Goody Pile but at one of the construction debris piles. When we were living in Alexandria, Virginia, in a moment that will never be fully explained, we bought a garden fountain with a leaping fish spewing a steady stream water into a basin.
We took an unnatural liking to the fish and were shocked when a workman knocked it over, snapping the fish’s neck in two. Reassembled, the fish still gamely spewed so we moved it a couple of times and eventually to Shelter Island.
There was no obvious spot for the fish in our yard, so one day I loaded it into the car and with a heavy heart headed to the dump. No sooner had I opened the hatch to the cargo bay than a car pulled up and a couple emerged, full of life.
“My God, are you throwing that away?” he said.
“We’ve been looking all over the East End for exactly that kind of fountain, right down to the fish!” she said.
“Well this is your lucky day,” I said.
I told them about the fish’s neck and that of course didn’t faze them in the least.
“It gives it added charm,” she said.
Couldn’t disagree with that statement. But you have to be impressed with their exquisite timing.
What are the chances for our rendezvous at the dump?
Let’s go with none.