Sunday, September 20 2020

washing the playhouse, spiders, and alcohol inks

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Sunday. It's a quiet, yet productive morning here on the homestead, as we're treading the thin line between sleeping in and getting all of our work done so we can enjoy the Bears game. So far we're in good shape. With almost two hours before kickoff, we've already caught up on laundry, cleaned up the kitchen from last night's dinner, and served a quick breakfast at the table.

I think we've finally entered into the relaxing part of the morning. All that's left to do is put away my own laundry and finish writing. Should be just enough time for my Akiem Hicks jersey to air dry on the hanger.

Sip. So how has your weekend been? We've been living it up. Our family thrives in fall weather. We Midwesterners are simple creatures. If you just give us a chance to wear our favorite hoodies and jeans, suddenly we get second wind and turn into the most effective outside workforce imaginable. Yesterday we cleaned Rodney's plastic backyard playset. One piece at a time, Rodney and I detached the plastic components at the joints and schlepped them all the way to the base of the driveway, where we would proceed to hose them off and wash them with soapy water.

Rodney hung with me for about ten minutes, then unsurprisingly decided he'd rather just "accidentally" run in front of the hose while I worked. And it didn't even phase him that it was a cool, cloudy day while we worked, and he was wearing a thick pair of jeans. Running in the hose is still fun.

And so with my hose on full blast, I pushed back the tide of dirt, spider webs, and rotting walnut shells to restore the playhouse to its former glory.

"This thing is going to be so clean, he'll be able to eat off of it," I boasted. "Maybe not - you know - a meal, but a pack of fruit snacks, sure."

To be honest, the real reason I look forward to cleaning the playhouse every year is the spiders. The back edge of our yard along the fence is like a spider paradise, and in the year that passes between playhouse cleaning day, they make themselves quite comfortable in the plastic grooves and dark, shadowy nooks. Playhouse cleaning day is a rare opportunity to see the type of spiders that have gone unnoticed for a while. The big ones. The clever ones.

"Watch out for spiders dude," I warned as we dragged the big plastic roof across the yard. "We're not hurting any of them today. Just a gentle eviction."

Rodney and I turned the plastic roof upside down at the end of the driveway. I tapped the edge with my foot. "Five minute warning, spiders," I announced.

Rodney crouched low beside the roof, mimicking me. "Five minute warning!" he shouted.

Three fat wolf spiders emerged. They quickly scurried out of expertly crafted funnel webs, onto the wet pavement and into the grass.

"My little friend!" said Rodney, kneeling beside one. "They are so cool."

If I pass anything along to Rodney, I hope it's a respect for spiders. And that respect doesn't even need to come from tremendous scientific insight either. The way I see it, killing spiders (especially outside) just goes against common sense. Google the types of things spiders eat, then ask yourself if you'd rather have a mosquito problem or a house fly problem or a cockroach problem instead of a quiet solitary spider.

My blog notes were derailed by a short research binge on spiders. I found that spiders even control their own population. If they come across each other, they'll have a gladiatorial fight to the death to claim the contested territory.

I don't think of a spider and a web as something gross. I think of it as just a very efficient organic bug trap, and there just happens to be a fuzzy little benefactor who will fix it up for free.

All that hard work destroyed at the blast of a hose. Thick globs of gooey web washing away. But the other thing I admire about spiders is how destruction never seems to phase them. If a spider loses its web, it spares almost no time staring a new one. And chances are, the web you find tomorrow will be just as elaborate and meticulous as the one that was destroyed today.

Spiders make me think of this stanza from Robert Frost's poem If.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss

If you lost everything, how long would it take you to start building again? Would you lose your temper? Would you to be too sad and distraught to continue? Or would you, like a spider, just pick up the pieces and immediately start rebuilding? You have to admire that.

After cleaning up from outside, we made dinner, and I later joined Marissa in the studio for a live painting session. Marissa likes it when I hang around to help read questions in the chat and loosen her up with some dumb jokes and banter.

"My job is pretty easy," I teased. "I just need to type or say YUPO PAPER every few seconds."

I've come to appreciate how much Marissa has learned about these paints. Not all the questions she gets are as simple as "Is that yupo paper?" She also get very detailed questions about how the paint behaves in a myriad of conditions, and amazingly she always has a response. She is obsessed, and that obsession has turned her into a living encyclopedia for alcohol inks.

Her live stream ended. After saving the video, she set her phone aside and slumped back onto her studio couch.

"This is a weird sensation," I laughed. "It's like a minute ago, we had a 100 people virtually in this room with us, and now they're all gone."

"I like how you were about to start the washing machine," she laughed.

"Oh yeah," I replied. "My bad. That was a massive oversight."

Thanks for stopping by today. Go Bears, and have a wonderful Sunday.