Atlas Insider: Winnowing
Breaking news: this summer has been hot. It’s been so hot here that we rarely sit on my mom’s back porch when I visit her now; we just sit inside and move as little as possible and try to figure out why her (insert one or more electronic devices here) isn’t working.
The last time we sat on her back porch, though, we noticed a pair of bluebirds working furiously to empty their bluebird house of, um, well, bird poop. A beakful of poop at a time, they’d jump up through the birdhouse hole and fly off and deposit it, oh, who knows where birds take things? Probably some random Starbucks bathroom. Very methodically and very patiently, they got it all done, and after a half hour or so had cleaned their house out and made it neat for their soon-to-hatch babies.
Which made me think of A PARALLEL STORY, though one devoid of bird poop: Mom and I have just about finished cleaning up and emptying her basement, which was formerly my Dad’s workshop. He died in the spring of 2021 and after a five or six month pause (it took quite a bit of advance courage working-up), we tackled that basement which—while not exactly Collyer brothers-level jam-packed—was nevertheless plum full of things both interesting and, uh, packratty.
Dad was a woodworker and a model railroader—emphasis on the model, not on the railroad. He’d build cars from scratch and paint them and make his own decals and use fifty sets of tweezers and magnifying lenses and create logs out of twigs to mimic logging hoppers, but he never really had a functioning train layout—just hundreds of meticulously modeled HO-scale cars and engines.
When it came time to deal with it all, I knew that the micro-tweezers and googly-lenses and oddly large plethora of dowel rods would come to my basement—who knows what crazy hobby I might take up? Taxidermy! Eh, maybe. The possibilities are endless. But we had to call in an expert to help us deal with the train stuff. A close family friend who is also a model railroader came in and winnowed the wheat from the chaff and told us what was probably covet-able by other crazy model railroaders (hot tip: they’re all crazy). Frankly, it all seemed like chaff to me at first, but we did gradually learn that dad was very good at what he did. We kept a few things for sentimental reasons and then hit eBay like a tornado hits a trailer park.
It was quite the busy fall auction-wise. And it paid off. Mom got a brand new front porch—the porch Dad always promised!—with her model railroad money and now she’s always trying to stuff a twenty in my shirt pocket when I’m over there. “It’s for gas money for driving over here!” I live three blocks away, so unless gas is now $300 a gallon (which, maybe), I’m making out like a bandit. Sssssshhh, don’t tell her. I like the walking-around money.
ALL THIS IS TO SAY: you start cleaning one space in your life and you suddenly want to clean and organize all the other spaces too. Not in a Marie Kondo way—that’s just flat-out irritating, plus she says you should “ideally keep fewer than 30 books” and Hi, Crazy, I don’t think so.
I have been quite the terror around MDK World HQ ever since the basement cleanout. There are still a few boxes that remain packed from the move two years ago! I’ve been digging out old damaged relics and dusty deadend dyelots that we can’t list online and stuffing them into employees’ purses when they’re not looking so that they’ll just go away … and oh, it’s all just thrilling to feel so streamlined and organized heading into the second, busier half of the year. I do like being decisive about what to do with all those little messy piles of things, all that bluebird poop. The birdhouse is nice and neat now and it better stay that way.
The prize? No such thing as too many books—especially knitting books. This week’s prize is a copy of Warm Hands curated by Jeanette Sloan and Kate Davies and one skein each of two colors of Tvinni (winner’s choice, see below) to make Jeanette’s Toasty Cosy mitts (the mittens variation is on the cover below)!
How to enter?
Step 1: Sign up for our weekly newsletter, Snippets, right here. If you’re already subscribed, you’re set.
Step 2: Which two colors of Tvinni do you like best together for Toasty Cosy mitts? Let us know in the comments.
Deadline for entries: Sunday, August 14, 11:59 PM Central time. We’ll draw a random winner from the entries. Winner will be notified by email.