Archive for January 9th, 2007


One of the things about cleaning house is that it gives you lots of ruminating time.  The bad thing is, you have these wonderful thoughts and revelations as the Suck Monster (as the cats refer to the vacuum) makes its peculiar roaring wind sound.  So the great philosophical strides are lost to posterity because the operator of the vacuum does not note them down, but forgets them when distracted by the need to move the couch. 

I had such a revelation as I was working today.  So the vacuum is sitting in the living room, surrounded by partially disarranged furniture, while I am at the keyboard, eagerly relating to you this particular philosophical musing, one which I have mused more than once and then forgotten as I continued with the day’s work.

It is this:  The boundary between inside and outside is very fluid.  Any person who has tried to keep a mudroom clean has experienced this fluidity.

We like to think that there is an actual line we can draw that says, “This is inside the house, that is outside the house.”  We put up deadbolts, and threshholds, and lock our doors and sleep soundly, believing that our boundary is secure.

But the most cursory examination of an often used entry will instantly reveal the depth of our error in this belief.  The person who cleans sees this most clearly.   The closer you get to the door, the more dirt there is.  Right at the door, there are bits of bark from the wood pile, and larger stones that have fallen from the tread of a boot.  This is leavened with the occasional clump of mulch, sawdust, tiny flecks of paint, a smear of road tar, you name it. Across the threshhold is a swath of dust and cat hair and dog hair.  These substances seem to be evenly distributed all over the house, and taper away from the door into the general disorder and dirt of the outside.

The house spiders know that the door is “nearly” outside.  There are a lot more of them congregated in the corners behind and next to the door openings than there are in other, more quiet places in the house.  Well, with the possible exception of the shelves of grow lights.  Today I noticed that the largest number squat down low, where the draft comes through the imperfections of the weatherstripping on the threshhold, caused by the passage of feet and sundry appliance deliveries over the years.  There is where they are most likely going to be able to snatch up an errant gnat or mosquito which has found its way through the same imperfection the draft reveals.

The boundary is fluid outside, too.  The lint from the dryer collects by the back door, the “inside” contents of the house escaping to the outside.  There is an errant coffee cup outside, the occasional tool.  “House trash” like a sales receipt, a piece of tape off a package, or the occasional escaped styrofoam packing peanut, shows the house contents merging.   We have roofed over the back porch, it has a concrete floor.   There are tables and chairs out there.   We have extended the “inside” of our home outside, making an open air seating area the blends the two.

There are cultures where they try hard to make the border less permeable.  These are the cultures that insist you take off your outside shoes and replace them with indoor ones the instant you enter the building.   Even in those places, I venture to guess, have to beat off the inroads of the “outside” to keep the line more clear.

I think about this, and I know there is someplace someone meditating about chaos theory, or the nature of matter and the tendency of systems to attain entropy.  My house is the perfect example of the concepts.  Probably the Heisenberg Uncertainty Theory comes into it someplace, too. 

All I know is, I have to keep putting energy into the system to try to keep the outside closer to the doors.  And it is not working all that well.

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