Entropy is dripping all over my house. I know, because I constantly clean up after it. It’s like the un-housebroken puppy I never had. Since early December it’s been following me around; and I don’t exactly know what to do about it, since it’s the ruling principle of the universe. And I’m apparently not.
The real question is, how did I get into this “pageant”? And who decided I should win it this year? And can I complain to the judges? And why did I have to find out two weeks ago in my own kitchen that Chicken Little was right?
Life is a constant battle against entropy. It is, in fact, the way we know we are alive. If there is chaos, we make a story to make sense of it. If there’s a mess, we try to bring order to it. If we have a roommate, we clean up after them.
In 1969, I briefly lived in Seattle on Mercer Street. One day, I picked up a copy of the local underground newspaper (does anyone remember those?), and there was an article called “In Defense of Chaos.” (If I could get the entropy out of my room, I’d probably find that article still lurking at the back of a file cabinet). It was illustrated in lovely brown woodcuts by Ben Shahn, who wasn’t alive at the time. At least, I think he wasn’t. If he was, he should have sued for royalties. Or maybe not.
ANYhoo, the article — in typical ’60s fashion — urged us to be artists, because artists (like ravens, monkeys, and tricksters in general) like to break open the windows in other people’s cozy little bourgeois hideaways and let in fresh air, when they least expect it or want it. Entropy is one of those tricksters (along with the coyote, and not a few Zen monks).
They show up, smash up our good china, take the basket of kittens WITH the kittens in it, and paint rude things on our furniture in pieces of my kitchen ceiling’s heretofore-unknown — and seriously dusty — contents.
Had it not been for these tricksters, I would not have known, for example, that I have not one, but TWO 100-year-old recipes for Christmas stollen. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out! And a pie crust recipe from the 1920s calling for a particular brand of lard (not Crisco).
I also found out that I have an entire mimeographed recipe book for anything-zucchini, going back to the summer of 1979 when my mother’s zucchinis got out of control. (I took one of these giants back to a friend at J. Walter Thompson in Chicago, and the Art Department carved a “Jaws” monster out of it and put it in a fish tank with a little plastic castle. Scary.)
Another find was a handwritten, hand-illustrated book from Reid College (ca. 1963), called “The Impoverished Students’ Book of Cookery, Drinkery and Housekeepery”: one of the funniest and most practical things ever written. (Thanks Mom!)
And much, much more, all of which required a serious vacuuming, scrubbing and reorganizing, as I did NOT replace the shelf that had inexplicably just leaped off the wall, exposing these treasures.
This week I will encourage Entropy to go to your house so you can uncover some beloved antiques you forgot you had. Trust me, you’ll thank me for it!