Spring sneaks up and so does the cleaning

Merrilyn discusses how she found out that nature hates a vacuum as does she.

These last weeks, in anticipation of the arrival of Spring, we’ve driven down Old Hedley Road to observe the encouraging changes in flora and fauna. Judging by the signs, I’m quite sure this is going to be an interesting year.

Some days ago just after dusk, we spotted a handsome cougar strolling just inside the edge of the forest near the old Iceberg Meats acreage. Then, a few days after that, it was six white mountain goats grazing high above little Coyneville. I’m quite sure they’ve always been there but now that the snow had nearly disappeared, they had become visible.

Back in town, there were the legions of robins, no doubt starving hungry after the migration. They gathered in flocks, enthusiastically discussing whatever it is robins discuss and making ambitious plans for the next few months. This enthusiasm must be catching because I was swept up by the powerful urge to do the dreaded spring cleaning, not so much in our small apartment but in my tiny studio at Riverside.

Last year, I had switched to a smaller space in a futile attempt to trick myself into being organized. I’ve always believed that the larger the space, the harder it would be to become focussed. Well, yes and no. Large or small, nature hates a vacuum and apparently, so do I. Here’s how I found that out.

When I first made the transition, I resolved to allow myself only three – okay four – areas of art making. They were painting, papier mache sculpture, bookbinding and copper enameling. If it didn’t have to do with these four things, then out it went. It was a struggle but for at least half a day or so, the studio looked like a rational human worked there. There was even a bit of empty shelf space left for emergencies.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to live in the head of a person who believes that she can make that work? Things sneak up on you.

For example, I had harvested bunches of willow branches for use in one of my papier mache sculptures and because I wouldn’t be using them right away, stuck them in a pail of water to keep them supple. This was done at the beginning of a rare week that I was away from the studio the whole time.

When I returned to work again I practically needed a machete to get through the door. Of course, the branches had sprouted wildly, overwhelming my awakening three foot Ficus Benjamina tree which really shouldn’t be in such a tiny space but…

There is the problem of being so organized that you can’t find anything which is probably why I immediately begin to mess things up by looking for the whatchamacallit that I know I wouldn’t have thrown out. I have just re-filed it in the catalogue of my failing mind, so where in blue blazes is it? Logic is relative it seems.

Another conflicting issue that pops up is my desire to be prepared for anything that may come up. This drives Paul nearly wild. He is an out-and-out adrenaline junky, still. He loves to deal with things as they come up and not before. That drives me nearly wild. I overcompensate and it collides noisily with my unattainable desire to live minimally. I will spot something that I may one day find useful… I collect against the possibility that there may be an imminent shortage. I know that’s ridiculous, but the human mind can be an awesome, terrible thing.

So, thanks to the robins, I will be spending a few days this week struggling with the voices in my head that try to loosen my grasp of reason. When things get too weird, I can always take a break from tidying and tossing, turn on a Bach cello concerto and paint my conflicted thoughts right out of the (messy) studio because that’s what it’s all about anyway!


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