...up with the "Project Platform"! I will explain...the mystical connection between Groundhog Day and my having bought a new ladder at Lowe's this morning. Well, not a ladder, exactly, but it is manufactured by "America's leading maker of climbing equipment."
Groundhog Day, on the far more intriguing old Christian calendars, is Candlemas Day, also known as the Feast of Mary's Purification and as the Presentation (of Christ in the Temple). It comes 40 days after Christmas, which is when Mary would have undergone ritual purification after giving birth...and is the last feast to date itself from Christmas. So if you still have that withered tree up in a corner, get it down! (Having it sitting in the backyard waiting to get its branches cut up for mulching the rosebushes so does not count.) For the fortitude to climb my new "Project Platform" and take down our aging Christmas wreath, I will invoke the words of the poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674):
"Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall"
Anyway, on Candlemas folks would bring candles to church to be blessed (including, presumably, the candles needed for that great old Catholic weird-thing, the "priest sick call kit," a sort of field desk containing a cross and candles and other sundries, which would be solemnly produced if Father had to come to the house to deliver Last Rites. We never had one, and I can't fathom why not, given my mother's Eeyore-like tendency to believe that health catastophe was just around the corner.) However, the candles apparently must be made of beeswax to be bless-able; no Yankee or aromatherapy numbers, please. The groundhog has nothing, apparently, to do with candles or Christmas; turns out he's from an old German superstition about a hibernating animal coming out to see his shadow. (Some suspect that Candlemas was established to supplant such pagan rubbish; given the media hoopla in Punxsutawney every year, I'd say that plan backfired.)
So I bought the ladder...not just to remove decorations from the Christmas Hall, but because our old ladder tried to kill the Spouse. It was always an evil ladder--bought with the best of intentions by my dear aunt and uncle, "as seen on TV"--the ladder that bends into many shapes with a snap of its hinges, including the mystifying "W" shape. It weighed a bloody ton (despite being made of aluminum), and had to be dragged screeching here and there just to change light bulbs on our cavernous first floor. Then the other day, as Spouse was carrying out his sacred duty of lightbulb-changing, there came a thunderous metallic crash--the Evil Ladder had slipped its snappy-joint-gizmos and flattened. Spouse was rattled but uninjured, but given the history of people falling down in the Crazy Stable and sustaining real catastrophes, I (semi-hysterical) dragged the wretched ladder out to the curb. (A few hours later, in the dark, we went out and saw someone piling it into a van; I hollered, "Be careful, it's dangerous!" The scavenger said something I didn't catch that didn't sound like English, and quick thinker that I am, I hollered, "Cuidado! Es peligroso!" Then we saw, as he emerged into the streetlight, that it was our next-door neighbor, who speaks English. And Bengali, his native tongue. And Spanish, as it happens. The Spouse, perhaps touched by my desire for revenge on the ladder or my concern for the prevention of Mexican-American spinal injuries, refrained from pointing out that I am an ass.)
But I got other cool stuff at Lowe's too! I love just going to Lowe's on a beautiful morning...the Gowanus is lovely on Groundhog Day...the towering mountain of scrap metal across the canal glints in the early sun, and the big sky fans out over the Brooklyn waterfront in a way that makes me feel tough and alive. There are always nice fellows to chat with, about renovation and hardware of course, and the huge aisles provoke in the modestly bipolar a giddy sense of possibility.
In examining my receipt, I realized that I had not merely blown a quick $141, but had produced a mini-portrait of the obsessions that churn through my soul regarding the Crazy Stable:
"3 Step Project Platform"...Yes, this will do; it will supplant anything resembling an extension ladder; because if it is high enough to require an extension ladder, we should call the Man to come and do it anyway. Preferably the Man with Insurance.
"Pro 100% Corn Broom." Spring-like weather has triggered the fantasy that, if I keep a broom downstairs, I will sweep the front walk and sidewalk with it. Corn brooms make me feel like I'm in "Little House on the Prairie"; synthetic push-brooms make me feel like I'm in "Silkwood."
"Soap Saver." It's a nubby plastic thing, it was 88 cents, and it means I can put out my Crabtree & Evelyn rosewater soap, a fragrant present from the Child, and declare territorial rights over it.
"27" Brawny Runner, 5 feet" Not Brawny but cheesy, it's a dull grey strip of rug meant to hold in the desert sands of scooping litter marching forward from our two kitty litter pans. They occupy the otherwise empty third-floor landing, and sometimes when I cannot sleep I design fabulous inventions to hide and deodorize and dust-proof this awful cat-kingdom. I'm grateful we have space to keep the pans someplace other than the bathroom...but sad it has to be in the same zip code with us.
"42 gallon contractors bags." These are Lawn 'n' Leaf bags big enough to hold a hefty mobster with sharp elbows. Or a ton of rose clippings, without slitting the bag. What Lowe's did not have are empty "sandbags," or whatever you call the indestructible little white woven bags you put cement rubble in. I have cement-tearing-up plans, and will need these in order to titrate out the demolition garbage through the good offices of the Department of Sanitation...one little ol' bag at a time.
"20" Snow Blazer shovel." I got the "deluxe" one...$18 instead of $13 for standard...to guarantee we don't have a blizzard this spring.
"Ceramic Heater." Just a little one, to use in the bathroom between heat cycles. When our radiators are on, they're blasting...but the heat flies out of the house the moment they cool off.
"4" Campanula." I had to! I had to! Life can't be all snow shovels and project platforms and industrial carpeting. The little flowers look like tiny blue roses. I give it 3 weeks to live, but I just needed some touch of spring--besides the kamikaze crocus sprouts deluded by the recent thaw into an untimely appearance. Good weather on Candlemas predicts a hard winter later, as Phil (or his handlers) would remind us. Crocuses, go back down!