Monday, January 4, 2010

Cleanin' Time

'Every wall is a door,' said Emerson, who apparently worked for my contractor.

Often, when it's New Year tidying time here on the timemarsh by the saltmarsh, one finds things that one does not expect and most things have surely seen better states of repair.
For instance: When our massive estate was young (the new best guesses say mid-Eighteenth Century, but I defer to other savants for original capitalizations of Old Bakerville), the first form hereabouts was a sod-walled hovel hollowed out of a berm. Truth be told, a lumpy hillock provided more grazing room for the beeves, and if there were any trees, you could sell them to Paul Cuffe. The rest of the local grounds were a mud wrestling match between stones and elms.
Remember those careless retreating glaciers? They had dropped their limestone, granite, and gneiss straphangers in indifferent heaps all over the place, leaving cheap building materials for the ur-Yankees, who immediately worked up the now-famous showtune, "Good Fences Do Good Neighbors Make."
Trust a chronicler who has lived in New England for long enough: the last thing that one can count on in a neighborhood where picturesque stone walls abound is "good" neighbors. Stone walls -- the ones fashioned centuries ago by native slave labor, not the shiny and sharp ones installed by last Summer's $125 an hour masons -- keep possessions, purpose, and persons within, only briefly and grudgingly interrupted by narrow and ignoble egress.
Like the holidays.
As years passed and the new nation's inhabitants developed a keg-a-day distilled corn habit, brick fireplace/bread/pizza ovens were sold by all online retailers, and my residential forebears were certainly no multislackers.
They installed their new-fangled "Summer kitchen" in the cellar, so that the preparation and scorching of the Sunday mutton stew and loaf of hard tack wouldn't add unwanted calefaction to the cool damp family quarters above. The Nineteenth Century home didn't need to tepefy at luxurious conditions over fifty degrees, and its lodgers preferred to be cold and damp, if their handshakes are any indication.

'To be admitted to Nature's hearth costs nothing.' And Thoreau knew about property taxes.As in all stories of home remuddling, someone with a metal clipboard and "Harvey" cap convinced my predecessors to make the switch from whale oil to kerosene, and the old basement hearth fell into disuse when they slapped a second story above your host's head. Soon gone, the art of hospitality and cheerful familial cries.
Like that one time, when Pa tried to melt that durned young-un's harmonica because who needs that jugband stuff anymore now that Marion Jacobs done gone snatched a bullet.
Half a century or so later, while finally getting around to a protracted Spring cleaning project during the holiday break, I found the outcome of that evaluatory exchange:

If only someone had done John Popper this favor.

I might also add that the first photograph in this event is in no way indicative of how the village currently appears. In fact, it's more like:'Sorry, Mr. Thoreau, but Mr. Beechtree says your appointment was cancelled.'

1 comment:

karie said...

NICE homemade "cartoonification" of your landscape! Just like they offer on the Facebook.