Cleaning Out the Clutter

by Judith Dupree September 20, 2014

We're cleaning out the garage. Not only this day, but the days and weeks ahead. Step by laborious step.

I am a saver, a re-user, a make-do mama―part of the world-war-raised generation that learned as young children to find a new use for anything usable, for whatever might be spruced up, re-purposed or recombined imaginatively, somehow, any how.

It is a secret and semi-legit and often passionate game I have played for much of a lifetime. And, guess what: not infrequently, it really, really works. An old-new thingamajig to live with once again! A transformation! A victory against planned obsolescence, against humanity's dreadful, casual waste. Reshaping as art—yes, even that!

And sometimes it truly becomes "yes, even that": a recreated entity, useful and well-used or imaginative―either by its re-purposing or a heightened, expanded "sameness." It offers testimony to a sort of, umm, resurrection. Sometimes it is the clay potmended, ready for holy water, or perhaps a muddle of shards gathered, sorted and shifted, chinked into mosaic that would never have become.

Confession: More often, I admire and set this gizmo-wonder aside for when I might need it, or someone else might need it . . . and it dies, unseen, forgotten, shelved perhaps for years, a space-robber for the essential―for the freshness of the new new. At what point do these re-creations or salvagings become simply debris? The answer, which I've long suspected and often avoided, may be that anything that doesn't have a viable application is suspect.

But wait; there's a deeper layer to all this clutter-mutter. My garage is a visible metaphor for the crowded chasm of my mind. The head-cargo is of another sort, but no less wedged and dredged.

Do I really want to rummage my thought-life, unravel my theses for remnants patched together over a lifework of processing the whole of it? Do I even know if I habitually do this―feed upon leftovers gone stale with their keeping? Do they, my patterns of response, become too comfortable/comforting, from years of shoeing them into tight assumptions and new juxtapositions and "Aha!"ing the way I patch my old disparities together? Do my alterations and altercations look suspiciously like rationalizations? Place-holders? Are they that?

Life must be more than a convoluted word game, a scrabble of shifting shapes―runes that might fit somewhere, deciphered somehow. It is self-deception, even arrogance, to assume that our cupboardful of suppositions, profess-ings, rationales, can be lifted from their dusty contexts and cross-stitched into a covering that serves the need.

Consider, oh my soul: Have I played God with all my toying and tinkering in response to life? Is this neuronal closet atop my shoulders likely my storehouse, the Ark I've toted place to place to place―my Holy of Holies? ? A crammed repository of symbolism and syllogism that I "need". . .

. . .to shape the need I need to shape, to shape the house that Judith built?

My real need? To sift through the dust and find out what anchors me, what lies at bedrock. What have I shelved in there― behind, beneath the swift or stuttering articulation that is real life? That absolutely begs to be recycled, refurbished . . . rethought. Reshaped without losing some core identity. Redeemed. Perception that becomes bread, that bestows breath.

The Kingdom of God is surety―a clearinghouse for every cluttered mind or closet. It is time to unload. Time to stand before that disheveled mountain of the unknown, unremembered, unusable, and whittle it down to rock. There, and then, I need only stand. Stand and wait.


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Judith Dupree
Judith Dupree


Judith Deem Dupree's first nonfiction book, Sky Mesa Journal, was published by Wipf and Stock Publishers in 2016. She also has three prior volumes of poetry. Judith founded and directed (1996-2010) Ad Lib, a retreat and workshop for persons of faith engaging in creative arts. An establishing member of the San Diego Christian Writers Guild, she served on the board for many years, teaching locally and nationally. Judith also created and co-directed Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council in eastern San Diego County. Her current projects relate to completing work in fiction, music and drama, and always, poetry.

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