Hunt for Order (Sharks and Harmonicas)

Tuesday night I walked out into my backyard, picked a tomato and a handful of basil, and ate them at the picnic table. Last night, I walked across the pasture, pushing horses out of the way, and sat on the fence watching the stars came out one by one. By the time I got down again, the dew was on the grass.

For those of you who don’t live in the country: what’s wrong with you?

Smug superiority aside…I’ve been spending a lot of my free time lately doing mundane tasks around the farmhouse: cleaning out drawers, organizing papers, vacuuming behind sofas. I’m bemused by the drive I feel to do these chores, and the pleasure they give me. I don’t think I’m nuts, or that I’m inhabited by the house-frau spirit of any of my ancestresses; it’s just a deep-buried need to get in touch with my surroundings. I found recently that I had no idea what was in my desk drawers. I want to know where every photograph, every pack of playing cards, every old bill is in the house. The need to have things come easily to hand…weird.

What’s weirder is that I don’t see it as a dispelling of mystery per se, although my roommate Debbie would argue this point. She likes being surprised by what she finds in the kitchen cabinets. Well, maybe there’s a little of that going on in my redding-out quest. I’ve always liked poking around the attics and closets of old houses; now that I’ve let my own become unfamiliar, I get to be objective about my personal space. The farm is a pretty mysterious place in its own right, anyway. Debbie’s boyfriend, Bruce, an Civil War buff and amateur archaeologist, recently unearthed the remains of what he believes to be a Civil War base camp in our pasture. With his metal detector he turned up a harmonica (a harmonica!) and several buttons, among other items. (I’m currently reading Confederates in the Attic, so this find supports my belief in the “interconnectedness of all things” theory.) Add this to an old graveyard and several century-old trash heaps, and our property is pretty darn cool.

Having mysteries lurk in the dusty corners of closets or a scratch beneath the surface of our backyard or in the night sky as stars pop into view is pretty refreshing. As horrible as the recent spate of shark attacks on our shorelines have been, does anyone else feel faintly relieved, as I do, at the nature of this latest tragedy? There’s no mystery, no matter what the media tries to make us think: the water currents are warmer than usual, the schools of fish go where the warm water goes, the sharks follow. End of story. I’d rather pay attention to that than the news coming out of South Africa, with the mockery that the
href=”″>World Conference Against Racism
has become. Ugh. With this craziness going on in the world, maybe it’s not so hard to understand my need to comb order into the environment.