Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bedroom Archeology

At Thanksgiving I began a grand experiment: living in the same household as my wife. 

Though we've been married for six-and-a-half years, this is the first time we've attempted this version of communal living. While I know most people will respond, "Duh," this is a radical step for us, requiring that at least one of us (in this case, me) give up a home that means a great deal. With Sandhill's blessing, I'm taking a leave of absence to try this out. If it doesn't work, Ma'ikwe can revive her plans (from July) to divorce me and I can return to Sandhill.

No sooner did we recover from the tryptophan overload of Turkey Day than we plowed into the archeological site that has been my bedroom at Sandhill for the last 20 years. Fortunately Ma'ikwe had set aside the week to mainly support me in the transition and the reorganization of Moon Lodge (her house at Dancing Rabbit where we now live), and she played a strong role in keeping me on task, and helped me sort things into four piles: a) move; b) give away; c) store; and d) trash.

While I'm only half done (there are at least two full days ahead), we've mostly cleaned out the closet, and have moved both the bed and desk. In the process I've already found two long-lost things that I knew were in the room but couldn't figure out where I'd placed them, and had lost hope of ever seeing again. It was like an early Christmas!

The first thing was a pair of small diameter rifflers with which I intended to sharpen the blade of our Univex grinder for shredding horseradish (which is incredibly hard on equipment, not just your nose). I figured the blades are expensive and it couldn't hurt to try sharpening what we had instead of springing for a new blade—but that theory only works if you don't lose the rifflers! I'd ordered them five years ago and couldn't recall where I'd put them to save my soul. It turned out they were in a bowl on my desk (underneath scads of insulated coffee sleeves) still safely inside their factory packaging. Whew!

The second miracle was coming across a box of butchering equipment (carefully sealed with packing tape and clearly labeled in my handwriting) alongside my desk (in an area I rarely venture to look at). It included a blade and grater plates for our meat grinder, a homemade locust pushing block (with a diameter barely smaller than the inside of the feed throat on the grinder), sausage casings, and a stuffing funnel. I'd been looking three years for that lot, and it was fortuitous to come across it right after cutting up three deer, most of which was destined to become burger.

While most of what I discovered was old and familiar, there were plenty of clothes I've never worn and have no idea how they got into my closet. Ma'ikwe was good about pushing me to let go of most of it. Often I'd touch something and it would trigger a story about its origin. Pretty quickly, Ma'ikwe figured out that she didn't need to pay attention to what I was saying; she could just nod occasionally as I went through the grieving process.

Sleeping in the Bed You Made
It was powerful sleeping for the last time with Ma'ikwe in the bed I'd made 38 years ago, from locally cut white oak. It was the bed in which both of my kids were conceived and holds a lot of positive juju for me. We disassembled it the next morning and put it back together at Moon Lodge—only to discover that Ma'ikwe's mattress was bigger than mine and didn't fit between the posts at the end of the bed. Oops! So, after a few deep breaths, I sawed off the posts and we were able to sleep there that night: my bed and Ma'ikwe's mattress, symbolic of the union of our lives.

Almost as important as the bed was moving my desk into Ma'ikwe's living room, so that I'd have a workplace that was reliably mine (heretofore it had been my laptop atop my lap in a chair near the wood stove). Ma'ikwe likes to bivouac on her couch, with her papers spread round her. I prefer a desk (or table) and now we're side by side, with easy sight lines of each other. Something of a his-and-hers living room.

While we've already hauled about six boxes of books over, there are at least that many still to go. Plus, we've hardly made a dent in my piles of paperwork, including a four-drawer filing cabinet. I'm seriously toying with shipping a bunch of the FIC material off to an archive facility (at the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville IN), rather than continue to haul it with me wherever I go. It's time to divest!

We managed without too much strain to shoehorn my clothes into the dresser and closet space that Ma'ikwe freed up for me, we folded my modest cooking supplies into Moon Lodge's spacious kitchen, and we were even able to find a home for my best-in-county eclectic liquor collection (through the judicious use of the loft space above the bathroom). But I have no idea where all those books are going to go, even after we build three more rows of shelves along the south wall of the guest room.

The Ties that Bind
Last week, as part of the new world order, we had a conversation about the division of Moon Lodge domestic chores that included the two of us, plus Jibran, Ma'ikwe's 16-year-old son. Jibran is seriously thinking of trying to enter college next fall to study philosophy, which could mean that the next 8-9 months are his last as a regular fixture in our domestic scene. Before he departs, I have a personal agenda to get Jibran's skill set beefed up to the point where he can: a) consistently start a fire in the wood stove; b) cook a basic meal without burning the food or telling us how incompetent he is; and c) tie basic knots (I figure if you master the square knot, clove hitch, bowline, and tautline hitch, you can handle 99% of the situations where knowing the right knot can save your ass). All of these things will, I believe, make a bigger difference in his life than being about to explain nuances in epistemology. He'll just have to trust me on that.

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