Housekeeping (CARLA)

Perhaps we become who we are by imagining and re-imagining ourselves in relation to home, and home in relation to ourselves. How we understand and practice both of those - self and home - change over the course of our lives. While I’ve been on leave this academic year, I’ve tried to bring a sense of deliberation and attention to that process. I’m attempting to create some kind of productive fluidity between work and home, to develop a more generative understanding of what “work” means to me, at this stage of life, and how I might practice it in a way that helps me move out of the typical academic cycle of exhaustion-recovery-exhaustion-recovery. Part of that has meant making a home: a new home in a new job in a new city, involving transformations at every level. And so I’ve turned my time and attention to housekeeping, in an effort to attend to housekeeping as a kind of magical practice of making and inhabiting a space that’s comfortable and alive and constantly opening up into multiplicities and possibilities. It seems that I’ve begun writing a kind of hybrid lifestyle-guide/cookbook in the process. Here are the first drafty bits of what will, I imagine, eventually become that book. I’ll share more as it comes.  Xoxoxo — Carla

1. Glass

The first things are the glass things. Unpack them all and put them in the middle of the floor. (On the table, on the counter tops, on the radiators and the arms of the couches.) Tomorrow, you will fill them halfway with water, and you will take the night - you will take as long as you need - to think about how this changes them. You will leave them that way for as long as it takes, crouching down to look at the world through the water and when you’re ready, you will buy yourself beautiful flowers, and you will cut the tips off their stems and put them in the glass things and then you will be ready to see the green in the water like vegetables your life is cooking, very slowly.

2. Light

Attend to the light bulbs.

You will take them for granted.

(Do not take them for granted.)

Other things will change position over time, get tired like tulips, relax their spines as they age, shed their skin, call out to you with their matter, break to try to earn your attention.

The lightbulbs are simply alive until they are not. 

They will not warn you when their death nears. (They will have given up the expectation that they deserve your care. You will rely on them unthinkingly and without gratitude.)

Whistle for them while they live.

Read them stories when you can.

Wear the lipstick they like, on special nights.

(This is the least you can do for these beings that are touched only twice - once when they are born, once when they are buried - and that ask nothing of you.)

When a light bulb dies, mourn in an inconvenient dimness for a respectful duration. 

And then twist it free, and bring it to your ear, and listen, as you shake it, to the little crystal voice of the ghost of this glass being as it sings itself to sleep.

3. Cotton

If you pull a handful of them from the box and stand them up in a juice glass and lean in close, they could almost be a bathroom sink coral. Gently touch one of the Q-tips and watch it blossom into a cotton flower. (If you keep it away from the moonlight, this one will survive the night.)

When you pick the glass up and put it next to the toothbrush, watch the bristles start to feather and wave, and look closely to see the tiny fish darting among them and then leaping into the glass to weave between the cotton swabs. If you gently broke open one of the cottony tips like a sponge you might find tiny seahorses made of toothfloss, born there in their infancy and trapped while they grew. They’re found in pairs: when the night falls and it reaches maturity, the solitary flosshorse dreams a companion into being, and they live out the rest of their night together, watching the fish through the cotton fibers.

4. Celery

Recipe: Celery

Take a heart of celery out of the fridge.

Break off 3 stalks and listen for a good crack. (This is the first pleasure of the celery.) 

Put the celery back into the fridge. (Look at that, you bought fresh produce and actually used it before it went bad. Let’s call this pleasure number one-and-a-half.)

Wash the stalks, dry them off with paper towels, and cut the heads and tails off. (Achieving a satisfyingly clean cut through the fibers is the second pleasure of the celery.)

Smell the celery. (This is the third pleasure. Spend as much time as you need on this one.)

Cut each stalk into thirds, and then cut each third in half lengthwise, so that you have 18 little celery sticks. (Look at how adorable they are. Fourth pleasure.)

Put them on a plate with something to dip them into, and eat them. (It would be a fine idea to spoon out some grocery story hummus, sprinkle it with some sumac and za’atar, and swish it with olive oil.) Before eating the last bit of each stalk, bring it up to eye level and attend to the cut surface of the celery. You’ll notice how the ends of the strings look like little moons orbiting a now-absent planet that used to roll around inside the curve of the vegetable. Imagine that planet back into being, just for a moment, before you eat the last bit, and move on to the next stalk, and do the same. Close your eyes and feel a galaxy growing inside of you. 

Now take the rest of the celery out of the fridge, and massage the tails a bit so that you can peel off as many long strings as you can manage. Place the threads on a sheet of glass reserved for this purpose. (The anatomy of the celery might remind you of fabric - it’s all petioles and ribs. Try thinking those words without imagining lacy and carefully-structured underwear that you might keep in the dresser for special occasions.) Find a comfortable place to sit, bring the sheet with you, and spend as much time as you need weaving a fabric out of the celery strings. You may need to return to the kitchen and harvest more threads. Do this as many times as necessary, until your fabric is large enough to comfortably cover your face. Place it over your face, making sure to cover your mouth, eyes, and nostrils, and walk that way until you reach your bedroom. Close the lights, get under the covers, and count slowly from one to ten, over and over, until you fall asleep with the celery cloth still affixed to your face. If you have managed all of this correctly, when you wake up you’ll be able to breath underwater. Each cloth can only be used once.