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Embracing the Chaos

A week without blogging! I’m sorry, guys. Between unpacking, scrubbing, trash hauling, and exhaustion (not to mention the library’s limited hours, which limit my wifi), I haven’t had it in me. I thought about blogging several times. But I figured you really wouldn’t be interested in my observations on greasy kitchen lamps or the incredibly strange mechanisms that open (or actually don’t open) old-fashioned garage doors. That’s about all that’s been on my mind the last week.

I’m starting to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel now. But this week is all about article deadlines, so don’t expect great things of me.

However … toward the end of this week, the articles should be done, home Internet service should be hooked up, and I hope to be brilliant again.

Well … adequate again. So thank you for your patience. In the meantime, I’ve managed to come up with one house-inspired thought that does manage to squeak above the mundane. Without further ado, here it is.


The people who sold me this house are, by all testimony, the sweetest people in several universes. The furniture they left has been a godsend, making me feel at home even before I’m fully unpacked. And of course I get a kick out of the little reminders that they’re Backwoods Home people, gun owners, preppers, and Bill of Rights supporters, just like me.

But there’s one way in which they and I couldn’t be more different. Here’s one example of it:

Yes, that’s a tennis shoe. Hanging on a fence. In fact, it’s a tennis shoe filled with dirt hanging on a fence. It’s a planter, although nothing’s growing in it at the moment.

The house, and more especially the yard, are a wonderland of little make-dos and oddball creativity. Here’s more:

Tea pots are a big feature of the backyard decor. So are air filters from some humongous piece of equipment. The filters are everywhere — used as tea pot stands, waste baskets, and flower pots. The yard was also filled with plastic toy boats until (sorry, sellers), I put them into the haul-away heap. And yes, that’s an old bathtub, there on the right. It’s filled with garlic.

Here’s one of the quieter corners of the yard after I cleared it of much of its stuff.

Though the yard is small to begin with, it’s divided into even more intimate spaces, each with its own quirky personality. There are ponds, giant bird cages, wind chimes, fishing nets, floats, tall plant stands made out of cast-iron industrial piping, miniature lighthouses, birdhouses, baskets, shells, sand dollars, a gazing ball, three wishing wells (that I’ve found so far), and a complete veggie garden (albeit one so small that it has only one or two or at most three or four plants of any given type).

But really, this isn’t about the house and yard. I promise. It’s about chaos. And embracing it. Or not.

I love this yard — especially now that I’ve denuded it of some of its broken and faded gee-gaws. It enchants me. I like sitting in it and wandering around it. But never in the world would I do a yard like this. I’d be more into a yard that was a vast expanse of well-groomed emptiness, with perhaps one lawn chair and a firepit. Same with the house interior. I’ve always admired the classical Japanese look from all those Kurosawa films, with basically no furniture, a few mats, nothing on the walls, and everything tucked away behind sliding doors.

I read once — it may be complete BS, but it makes sense — that people with chaotic minds crave that kind of simplicity, while people with calm minds can enjoy an environment of happy chaos — just like my new backyard. I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that the folks who owned this house before I did were more easy-going and happy than I. Not that they had better lives; several people have hinted that they were sometimes taken cruel advantage of. Just that they had a different, and more peaceful, outlook on life.

Also, while I’m “officially” creative, being a writer and all, they’re the kind of people who could envision an old shoe as a planter and an ornament, while I’d never see it as more than … and old shoe. They’d see possibilities. I’d see only a bit of trash, to be disposed of as quickly as possible.

My point in all this (and yes, there really is one) is that I think people who can embrace chaos — and even make it their own — are generally happier, and certainly better survivors, than people like me. People who envision a shoe as a planter, an elderly tea pot as a garden ornament, or an air filter as a table, are more likely to be able to turn lemons into lemonade in hard times. Not to mention turn old scrap into machinery or trade goods if TSHTF. Besides, the world is filled with chaos, like it or not. Saner to embrace it than to fight or deny it.

Me, I’m second-rate. But I could learn from these people.

Here’s a sort of a backyard shrine they created:

I don’t know what was originally at the center of this odd domestic altar. Maybe a little pirate ship; that would be a good guess. Whatever it was, they took it with them. So this time I added the tea pot. Why? Because it was there …


  1. Pat
    Pat August 24, 2010 2:39 pm

    Claire, that’s a nice-looking teapot at the shrine; looks like a good size, too.

    Please save any of the nautical stuff you don’t want — floats, lighthouses (How big are they? I have a small collection of my own.), shells, sand dollars, fishing net, etc. — I might want to buy some of it from you. I’m planning to set up a nautical scene in the backyard where I’m moving.

    Wind chimes: shine up the metal ones, re-string or re-wire the wooden ones, and enjoy them all. (Well, maybe ALL of them would be a little noisy in a strong wind.) A couple of them can even be used to keep the birds away from your vegetables — as can some of that fishing net. Or stretch some of the net on a frame and grow beans or squash, and keep the fence perimeter free for flowers.

    What kind of ponds — how big, how useful, where located — are there? Could one of them be made into a water feature? Or, if the tub is close to the patio, you could bury it about 3/4 deep, run a pump hose through the spigot holes, and make it into a water feature; that would be nice while writing on the patio.

  2. Karen
    Karen August 24, 2010 4:57 pm

    I love it! And you didn’t have nearly enough stuff, so now you do. 😉

  3. naturegirl
    naturegirl August 24, 2010 5:01 pm

    …and here I thought the artist in you would be tickled at all the yard stuff, LOL…..garlic (even in a bathtub) sounds like a keeper….

    It’s so green there, I’m jealous….

    Maybe by the time you make it yours, it will be a blend of chaos and calm 🙂

  4. Charlie
    Charlie August 24, 2010 5:26 pm

    That’s not chaos, it’s treasure!

  5. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty August 25, 2010 6:48 am

    I just love your yard, though I agree that I’d probably pare things down considerably. I’d like more vegetable and flower garden space!

    My family moved all the time until I was a teen, so we were never allowed to collect anything. Since I stepped into adulthood, it seems a backlash to that has turned me into a packrat. I can’t seem to tell the difference between trash and treasures much of the time, so keep pretty much everything. Then, once a decade or so, I get a wild hair and throw things out by the truckload!

    But I often regret at least some of what I toss. I’d give a lot to have the 10 year collection of National Geographic from when my sons were small. They seemed like such a burden when we moved the farm in ’75. I got rid of 80% of what I owned when I moved to Wyoming and still regret losing some of it.

    You just never know.

  6. Jackie Juntti
    Jackie Juntti August 27, 2010 3:26 pm

    I learned eons ago that everything has many uses – you just have to stretch your imagination to discover the many uses one item can hold for you. Perhaps it was growing up below *poor* and watching my elders use and reuse everything as there was no money to buy. When I sold my place in WA I had jars of assorted (all sorted) screws – nails – nuts – bolts hinges – many of which I had removed from items that were no longer usable but the hardware was.
    Funny, I have a teapot planter here – the tea pot gave up the ghost to heat water so I planted flowers in it.
    I love stretching my imagination and it has saved my bank account from serious injury over the years.
    Learn to use the *stuff* like you use your imagination for your wonderful writings.

    I wish you much happiness in your new home.

  7. Patti Canaday
    Patti Canaday August 28, 2010 9:09 pm

    Your yard looks lovely, that is, what we can see of it. It is definitely been lived in and enjoyed. But I have to say that if I were in your shoes, I don’t know if I could be so zen-like about the ‘stuff’ everywhere. It would drive me crazy. I think that, for me at least, a cluttered mind means a cluttered environment, and I’d have to do some serious purging. However, the bath tub full of garlic could stay. After all, that’s edible.

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