There’s something about the new year coming that makes me want to tidy up. I hear a bell begin to toll on 2013, though the truth is, from one day to the next – December 31 to January 1 – no bell tolls, no brocade curtain comes down, no trumpets blare. I just go to bed in 2013 and wake up bleary-eyed and fairly happy in the next year of my life.

A calendar for daydreaming...

A calendar for daydreaming…

Calendar-Sense (or Nonsense) is strong within us, and tidying up is part and parcel of endings, so I tidy. Bits and pieces. This and that. A small linen closet…just a shelf, really – I don’t have enough linens to call it a linen closet (which is one reason I watch Downton Abbey – to imagine all the linens for a household like that – freshly pressed, smelling slightly of lavender…and, of course, maids to make the beds and start the fire in the morning…and a maid to dress me and do my hair…and then the chauffeur, waiting to declare his love and sweep me away to revolutionary Ireland…well, never mind all that.)

More daydreaming....

More daydreaming….

I tidy up the cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink. Two half-full bottles of Windex…time to combine them. A full bottle of Pledge. Pledge? Pledge? Where did we get this? How long has it been here? No one knows. Out it goes along with a few mystery cleaners no one can identify. Ah, the Comet. I take time out to scrub the sink and the enamel shines. Very satisfying.

Under the Sink
Under the Sink
Not Daydreaming
Not Daydreaming

I organize the tool box – screw drivers, screws, tape measure, picture hangers. Next time I have a bigger project, I will be able to find the right tools. I collect empty clothes-hangers and put them all in one closet. I organize all the half-burned candles I’m too stingy to toss out. A shelf of vases gets cleaned out. I actually put a few important papers in my file drawer and I’m pleased with myself. When tax time comes, I will know where to find that important whatever-it-is. I reflect on a hidden side of me, the secret bourgeois.

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme

I decide tidying up feels good, and I am near the file cabinet in my office.  I look at my desk. Oh-oh, that might take a little more effort than “tidying.” But I reflect on my latest writing projects. I’ve been doing some tidying up with my writing, too.

I’ve put the final touches on an essay about the poet Marie Ponsot that I promised to  Doug Glover for his wonderful Numero Cinq (“a warm place on a cruel web.”) I’ve been keeping up with my blog posts for The Drift Record, especially all the small Poetry Friday posts where fellow kit-lit-o’sphere writers share poems. This week I posted a poem by Walter de La Mare. I’ve been figuring out a new post for the blog my writers group co-creates, Books Around the Table. Last time, I wrote about Mock Caldecotts. Next Friday, when it’s time to post, I think I’ll write about the challenge making the rounds on Facebook recently to choose “Ten Books That Have Stayed With Me.” Impossible, but great fun.

I got out a poem written ages ago, showed it to friends who liked it and sent it in to the editor at Harcourt who worked on two of my books. Not new work, but I’m tidying up. Fingers crossed.

I’ve been writing a few Christmas cards to close friends, which sometimes take the creative effort of a good poem – a note on a Christmas card is all about compression, all about conveying the passage of time and the essence of my year by choosing just the right details. Bits and pieces.

This year's Christmas care, which says a lot about my year....

This year’s Christmas card, which says a lot about my year….[photo by Robert I. Snow for Palm Press]

What I’m saying by all this is that not all of our projects have to be grand scale, whether it’s around the house or in our writing lives. We don’t always have to be remodeling the kitchen or producing the Great American Novel. Sometimes life is lived on the scale of this-and-that, including our lives as writers. Try to be satisfied during this Bits-and-Pieces time. Toss the unused bottle of Pledge, put a lavender sachet in with the sheets and towels, daydream and contemplate, write to friends, finish a promised piece, review old work. Tidy up. If friends ask you what you’re working on, tell them “My half-burned candles.”

Bits and Pieces

Bits and Pieces


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  1. Good for you, Julie! Baby steps are steps afterall. I’m working myself up to throw away the soft and unlovely plaid flannel pants that have worn so thin the skin underneath shows through.

  2. Kathy Quimby

    Oh Julie, the half-burned candles made me smile. When we were cleaning out my in-laws house, we found multiple boxes of them. Some of the longest ones I brought home to burn. I plan on leaving none for my daughter to deal with.

  3. Julie Larios

    Oh, pity the poor people who have to clean out my house…my kids, of course. Okay, Kathy, I will think on that when deciding what to keep and what to toss.

    • Kathy Quimby

      I don’t know, Julie. While I don’t want to inflict such a task on my daughter, it was not without benefits. Those of us who participated are much closer and I certainly understood my husband’s family much better by the time we finished. There was something almost archeological about it. (It also gave me an idea for a novel.)

  4. louisehawes

    Oh, Julie! I love your Christmas card. No, wait. I AM your Christmas card!

  5. Yes, Lou – you and me both. A slight sag at the ridgeline, but not without charm, right?

  6. Martine Leavitt

    Julie, you never let me forget that before you can write, you must live. You must live life, and be aware and conscious and attuned. All the little things that make a life – out of them comes our art. Thank you for being you.

  7. Martine Leavett, I adore you. Whenever I think of you, I think not only of your books, but of your very real children and how you talk about them in your life. Our people, our stories – sustain us. I know you understand.

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