Sunday, June 11, 2017

Close encounters of the cacti kind

This evening I had to call my husband long-distance and confess to having destroyed one of his beloved cacti--but only in self-defense. Honest, it tried to murder me first!

How did I get into this mess? I think it started back in 1982, when I married a man whose love for succulents led him to station massive cacti in pots all over our house, so that I can't wash the big front picture window without getting spines in my arms--and don't even ask my son about the time he fell onto a cactus at about the age of four. (Meaning he was four. I don't know how old the cactus was.) Have you ever tried to remove hundreds of tiny cactus spines from the buttocks of a squirmy four-year-old? I don't recommend it.

But that's ancient history. Today's mishap begins with a peculiar fact: there are some cleaning projects I prefer to do when my husband is out of town. I don't want to suggest that he gets in the way, but, for instance, it's much easier to shampoo carpets when they're not covered with size-12 shoes and stacks of books and husbands who have just come in from the garden and urgently need to fetch things from rooms where the carpets are still wet.  

So I shampooed the bedroom carpets last week while my husband was at one conference and I have a whole different set of annoying household tasks lined up this week while he's at another. Today I tackled the worst one: cleaning the bookshelves in the basement.

It sounds simple enough, but only if you don't know our basement. It's a walk-out basement with deep windows on one side, and those window sills are covered with house plants that support a spider-intensive ecosystem. Further, the four (!) bookshelves down there have not been moved since we moved in to this house 13 years ago, so I wanted to empty them all out, pull 'em away from the walls, and clean up whatever messes I found.

I did it right: washed the walls, cleaned the shelves, dusted the books before putting them back (in alphabetical order by author!), cleaned up what looked like a massive mouse nest, vacuumed up untold numbers of spiders and egg sacs and dead ladybugs and plant detritus.

And I was nearly done--the end was in sight!--when I went to pull a small two-drawer filing cabinet away from the wall and one of the casters fell off, causing the whole thing to tip sideways and take me with it.

Now a really smart person would have taken the cacti off the top of the filing cabinet before trying to move it, but I was, as I've mentioned, nearly done with a nasty, dirty, dusty, sweaty job and so exhausted that I wasn't thinking straight. Which is just the time when I need someone else to do the thinking for me, but no one else was here, so over we all went, filing cabinet, cacti, spiders, dirt, and me.
It took a while, but I fixed the filing cabinet and rescued the giant aloe, which is, I think, unkillable. The other cactus, however, bit the dust, and then I had to scoop up and sweep up and vacuum up the dirt and then scrub that bit of carpet so I can eventually move the filing cabinet back where it belongs.

I'm still picking cactus spines out of my hands but aside from that, I'm fine. And the basement is fine, or it will be when I get a few things back in place. And the giant aloe is fine. So what if I killed a cactus? It's not as if we're suffering any lack of succulents.

But I'm really glad I got that awful nasty cleaning task out of the way early in the week. Do you know what I intend to clean tomorrow? 

Absolutely nothing.

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