Thursday, February 12, 2009
The Life of Junk
Driving through any rural farm area, one is confronted with a fact of life: Junk. When we first moved to our property back in 2004, there was Junk everywhere, underground, in the old barn, behind the old barn, and some invisible under years of unmaintained blackberry bushes. There was Junk that passed for cabinets in the house and Junk that was left as 'Hey, we didn't have the energy to take this to the dump, and we're cheap too, but we're out of this place so we're leaving it for you." Gee, thanks.
Now, messes and piles of crap have always made me anxious. I am not a neat freak - I'm sure anyone who has visited Apifera can attest to this in the comment section. But I like to think that any of the Junk on our farm has a distinct purpose, even if it's a future purpose, unknown to the present beholder. Reading Annie Lamont's book last night, 'Bird by Bird", I was reminded of the learning power of the messes that come to us in life, or the messes we make. She points out that the child must make a mess of blocks to get to that final structure, and the writer, or painter, also starts with a mess of words or colors and sloths through it to make sense of it. It's that process, of course, that teaches us not only more about ourselves, but might shed light on other mysteries too.
As a lovely, freshly clean, slim single gal, I controlled my Junk. It's much easier to control one's Junk as a single person. I had areas where said Junk resided until I needed it, but I knew that Junk like the back of my hand, and what was there and wasn't. I knew I could go down in the basement and find a series of old wood rods that could be used for all sorts of things. I knew where to find an overflow of tin buckets, in case I needed to paint one for a gift. All my Junk resided in a special Junk Place, pretty much out of site.
But life happens. Whether or not your Junk is hidden or neatly arranged, it does not stop life from happening. In fact, relying on orderly junk to make you feel in control of daily life is just delaying a cold fact - life is hard, even on the best, most glorious days. But so what? Is that so bad?
When we moved to the farm, I boldly told myself we would not keep Junk in our barn, or scattered about like wild flowers. I immediately set out to tackle the Junk. Now, in fairness to myself, some of this Junk had to be dealt with. The former owner felt it was OK to throw anything out to rot, including rugs, cans, and glass. Unbelievably, they ran horses in this area. We spent most of the first year hauling off their Junk, unearthing even more junk. We are still hauling off junk. This is why I use a capital letter "J" for the word Junk - it is an entity of it's own, with a past, present and future life. Junk is like dirt, or snotty kids, or barking dogs - annoying to deal with it when not your own.
I soon learned that when we hauled off one load of Junk, another load is quietly being made, either by me or my husband, who is notorious for bringing home Junk from his landscape projects. He took to throwing some of his Junk up in the upper hay loft, unknown to me, until I spied it one day. That led to some Junk rules. "All Junk must have a future purpose, and Junk finder must have a remote 5 year plan for said Junk." We have created many fine functional things from all this Junk, like garden doors, bird houses, garden sinks, trellis arbors...It's the 20 year supply of white irrigation pipe that gets out of hand.
The longer one lives in a rural area, the more Junk one sees, everywhere. It becomes understood that sometimes, it even makes sense to buy Junk, like this red weather vane. It came to us non working, and hasn't worked for the two years we've had it. In fact, it's in worse shape now than when we brought it home, as it kept falling because Frankie likes to rub on it. That's why it is propped up by the chicken coop - it leans there to remind me we have to fix it. If I hide it away in the barn, I won't remember to fix it.
When I work on our Junk, like taking an old door with whole bunch of dairy cow manure on it, probably from the farm's 1960's era, I think all sorts of thing - are the cows buried here, where did this door get used, how old was the farmer when he put it up, did that scratch mark come from a cat wanting some fresh milk? That Junk had a life, and we give it another. Someday, long after I'm dead, that door might still be here, maybe off the hinges again, and being used as a little girl's tree house landing. She'll notice the words I've carved in it, "Apifera, 2009, still here", and she'll let her imagination flow along to another place, all because of my Junk.