the music of solitude

home stereo set up

Wintertime is for woodshedding. For me this is a combination of catching up on reading (current title is an ARC about the North Pond Hermit), catching up on housework and home care, and catching up on correspondence (email, postal mail, social communication). I spend a lot of time busy usually, enough so that it’s a little hard for me to figure out what to do when I’m not doing paid-for work. Helen and Scott Nearing, when they were talking about their version of “the good life,” spoke of splitting up their day into thirds; roughly a third for vocation/wage earning, a third for the community, a third for fun and hobbies. Mine seems to go in bigger chunks: a day for fun, a day for community, a day for work.

Today I woke up determined not to do job-work and applied myself to more of the house projects here. I’m sure from the outside it looked like work. It can be hard to explain to people that, to a librarian, or at least to THIS librarian, putting things back in place is a deeply pleasing activity. So, I rewired the stereo, dusted all the bookshelves, found out when I went to put the iron back that there was already an iron there, hung up a few pictures and listened to some records. Yesterday I was the house manager at the Chandler for a talk by Amy Goodman and Bill McKibben, two favorites of mine. I got to help people find parking, help them find their seats, help the volunteers find their coordinators, help lock and unlock doors and keep the place running. It reminded me a lot of the work I used to do at the Odd Fellows hall and made me wish there was a little room in there somewhere where I could live. Jim was up before that and we went to VINS and admired the birds and I got to cross three more libraries off of my VT 183 list (Woodstock! Northfield! Quechee!) a list which is sort of slow to get filled out.

Wintertime is also for Wikipedia. I have more free time, enough that that if I learn a new thing (particularly if I got it from a print source), I try to add it to an article if it’s not already there. The next few weeks are a project called #1lib1ref, a campaign to try to get every librarian (or anyone really) to add a citation to Wikipedia to help make it better. There is a tool called Citation Hunt where you can look for articles needing citations in categories you are interested in. I found the five articles about African American Librarians needing citations and went and tracked down some sources. A lot of this can be done with some determined Googling and some Wikipedia-wrassling to get the citations right.

It’s more challenging finding citations in categories like this because history is often racist and the historical achievements of people of color didn’t make the papers in the same way achievements of white people did. One of the things that helps with this is libraries and the (Googleable) finding aids that they create. Not everyone can become famous for single-handedly recording 40,000 VHS tapes worth of TV news footage, sometimes you have to dig harder to make the connections and verify the claims. And all the while I got to do this stuff while listening to all my old records. Woodshedding may look like work, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

dull people have immaculate homes

photo of a closet, well-organized

My place will never be immaculate. As long as I have long hair, it will fall off of me and wrap around every piece of fuzz and create pernicious dustballs. However, the place can be organized. One of the great things about being underemployed is being able to really attack the mini-shameholes in this place. I live in 700-ish square feet. It’s a good amount of space for one person, but I have a grown-up lady amount of stuff including a full kitchen, set of tools and hobby equipment, multiple computers and laptops, ample book collection, and a guest bed. As much as I like to keep things in order, I’m not going for the minimalist aesthetic. At the same time, clutter clouds my mind, pulls away little parts of my attention that I could spend working or bird watching. So, every few days I pick a little part of the apartment that has been “silting in” as we say in my family, and take it apart and put it back together again somewhat improved. This week that included putting up a shelf in my kitchen that I’ve been meaning to do for about seven years. Yesterday it was emptying and refilling the hall closet, the one that is storage for coats, mailing envelopes and packing material, window screens and storm windows, tents, tripods, houseplant equipment, and birdseed.

Along the way there are assessments to make. Are you ever going to wear your seventh favorite scarf? Can you justify needing three separate tripods when you used your camera maybe three times last year? Does a raincoat need to spark joy, or is it okay if it just functions as a raincoat and you live where it rains? Tough questions.

“Jessamyn, just because those rocks that look like Vermont bring you joy, that does not mean you NEED to keep them.”

I’ve been swapping messages with an online friend who works as a professional organizer and she’s sent me links to a lot of interesting critiques of the recently faddish Kon Mari “magic tidying” approach which has been my latest hobby reading. I’m a big fan of “What works for you.” but we all know that “My way or the highway!” approaches sell more books.

Why The Magic Art of Tidying Up Doesn’t Work For American Women
A (slightly snarky) book review of the life changing magic of tidying up
The real reasons Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic doesn’t work for parents
Confessions of a Professional Organizer (I’m organized enough, and not one bit more.)

Ultimately while having a tidy closet will save me a little bit of time and a little bit of hassle, the glowing accomplishment of an offline project well done from start to finish (and an excuse to use the labelmaker) was the true reward here.