You Can’t Wait for Spring Cleaning When There’s a Waterfall Outside Your Bedroom Window

I awake to the sound of rain pattering on the sidewalk out front. It’s a sweet sound compared to the waterfall I heard for weeks before I cleaned out the gutters.

Cleaning the gutters here is one nasty job. I’m scared of being on the ladder in the first place, and there’s no way I’m going on the roof, probably the result of my father warning me all my life that I would fall if I got an inch off the ground. But my house is surrounded by trees, and we’re prone to wild wind storms, so the gutters fill up.  I can either listen to the waterfall and get drenched every time I walk out the front door, or I can clean the gutters.  I get up on the third step in my grubbiest clothes and a bucket and a trowel and start scooping up wads of pine needles attached to wads of weeds. It comes out the color and consistency of spinach that has been allowed to rot in the bottom of the refrigerator. It’s deep, it’s thick, and I can never get it out without getting it all over me.

This time the gutters were especially full, but I got most of it out and returned safely to the ground. Just as I was about to put the ladder away, my neighbor came walking over. Yes, he’s the same guy who saw me in my bathrobe last week. Post-gutter cleaning, I had dirty water and spinach gunk all over my blue sweatshirt and my ratty jeans, with some on my face and my glasses and possibly in my hair. Yeah, he’d been meaning to take care of my gutters for me. Sure. Too many promises, not enough action. The waterfall keeps getting louder. But he did come over the next day and tack up a section of gutter that was hanging down. That will make my gutters run clean, he said. Uh-huh.

Anyway, with the new year happening and just enough sunshine to show me that this place can’t wait for spring cleaning, I’ve been on a cleaning marathon.

The lid on my hot tub had been lying on the grass since the last big windstorm. It’s too big for me to move by myself. I had turned the heater off as the tub filled with icy water, leaves, twigs, dirt and the ever-present pine needles. On that same sunny day when Pat fixed my gutter, he helped me get the cover off the lawn and back onto the tub. The next day, a Sunday, I drained the tub, got inside and cleaned it, getting all wet and dirty again, and refilled it. By the following evening, it was full of clear 100-degree water. Ahhh.

Meanwhile, the kitchen beckoned. I live alone, except for a dog who doesn’t cook and eats pretty much the same thing every day. Due to cooking sprees, sporadic guests, culinary gifts, and always thinking I might use stuff someday, I had quite a collection of things I might not need. For example, I’ve been keeping: spices that are not only from last year but from the last century; medicines from dog diseases long gone, including a potion I had to rub on Annie’s privates, not fun for either of us; plastic containers with white powder that could be (no, not drugs) powdered sugar, corn starch, flour or Bisquick; coffee, coffee, coffee, which I don’t drink, fruity teas from the last century that I will never drink; about fifty commemorative mugs and even more commemorative wine glasses; recipe refugees, including three little cans of water chestnuts, a box of lasagna noodles that expired in 2010, and two giant cans of enchilada sauce; recipes I clipped from the San Jose Mercury-News in 1974; potholders I crocheted when I was eight years old; and an electric sandwich maker I forgot I had—I’m the sandwich maker: lay out two slices of bread, spread with mayo and mustard, throw on some meat, cheese or tuna, heat in the toaster oven until I finish reading whatever chapter or article I’m reading, cut in half and eat.

For once, I didn’t just look at all this stuff and put it back. The garbage man is going to wonder why I’ve got so much trash this week, and I’ll be paying another visit to the Goodwill truck. Out, out damn junk.

This morning, I looked at my clean kitchen and smiled. Clean! Now I’m ready for a new year. Or maybe I’ll start on the storage cabinets in the laundry room.

Have you started your New Year’s cleaning yet?

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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