All posts tagged “home


I find comfort in the menial tasks of domesticity, where my life floats beautiful around the mundane. In small housekeeping based tasks, I find satisfaction in keeping a clean space, a clean house, meticulously organized and put together. It is no surprise that upon coming home, I have found myself more willing to put up with and maintain my mother’s expectation of order that has been established long before I was born, long before she was even born. In washing dishes, I find time to mediate. In making my bed every morning, I find a routine that keeps me grounded. In dusting, I am comforted by the way the rag clears the pale floatsom from tabletops, from nooks and crannies in furniture.

Admittedly, it’s akin to a nervous tick.

When I am worried, I straighten. When I am listless, I dig into the world that is my stuff and discard the unneeded, the extraneous, the superfluous. When I am sad, I find myself scrubbing a bathroom from top to bottom. When I am alone, as I often am, I find myself deep in the silence of cleaning a floor by hand, on my hands and knees. Often, as extra income, I find myself in other people’s houses, polishing their hardwood staircases with hot water and Murphy’s oil soap, hands wrung dry and knees bruised. I find a calm in not only cleaning my living space, but other’s as well. The world is a better place when I can organize and put things where they belong.

Housekeeping, in a way, is a representation of moral character. The matriarchal family in which I was born into has taught me the responsibility and need to maintain a clean living space in an intense, obsessive manner. Before I moved out, away from the life I lived under the gaze of my parents, my room was a place of chaos, of collaged walls, of piles of clothes, of stuff. I clung to disorder as a means of rebellion, to not only irritate my mother, as all good teenagers do, but push against all that I was brought up to believe, what I should be. I tried to ignore the uneasy feeling I got when I went into homes that were less clean than the one I lived in, whose blatant filth forced me to be careful about touching things, about stepping lightly. I tried so very hard to ignore the dust on the baseboards, the dirty kitchen floor but I could not.

So, when I moved out, when I got to fill an apartment with my things, my tendency and my need to keep house crept up on me and the one day smacked me across the back of the head. I dreaded using the dirty bathroom so I cleaned it. I hated walking barefoot across the dirt-speckled wood floors so I vaccumed. The disorganization of the kitchen made me nervous so I straightened. By the time I moved into my third apartment in 2 years, I was willingly and happily scrubbing the dingy linoleum kitchen floor back to it’s former white glory once a month while my roommate was out. I swept the back porch in the summer time, pulled weeds from the sad patch of dirt in front of the house, wiped out windowsills after rainstorms.

I often think of not keeping house a sign of something amiss. I have noticed, as I go back through the short stories I have written, that when ever something is wrong, the house is a mess, the dishes aren’t washed, there are no clean clothes, the floors are dirty. Despair is eating in bed, leaving the dishes on the nightstand. When the future is bright, the characters (or myself, since I think it’s hard to write something about someone else without you in it) live in a world of order and immaculate baseboards. Love is washing dishes together. I see the decay of personal space as internal conflict in other people’s writing too; off the top of my head, Housekeeping by Marylynne Robinson is one, We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates is another.

Today, while I am alone in a big quiet house, I am listing the things off in my head that I need to do in order to maintain that moral character. There is a vacuum to be run, a kitchen floor to be cleaned, counters to be bleached, laundry to be folded and put away, and as an extension of personal space, a car to be cleaned out. Granted there are other things I need to do but before I leave the house, before I even bother getting dressed, the housekeeping comes first. It is only after I do these things, only after I have made my world a better place, can I deal with the world outside, in all it’s dirt and disorganization.

Paulsen Wire Rope.


Paulsen Wire Rope manufactured heavy steel cables for bridges and cranes and other industrial uses for many, many years. I know that, according to local lore, their rope suspends the Brooklyn Bridge and other suspension bridges around the country.

Paulsen was bought out by Williamsport Wirerope Works in 2002 due bankruptcy. As much as I can find, WWW was bought out in 2004 and was reformed into Wirerope Works Inc. Anything after this, I can’t seem to locate. Between then and now, the building was razed. It had been at least seven years since I was on this part of South Third Street so imagine the expletive that came from my mouth when I drove by. I had to double and triple check with family members about the building; “Wasn’t there something there? What happened?”

A cousin used to live across the street and at night, when the rest of the world was sleeping, the windows at Paulsen Wire Rope were aglow and a slow, steady pounding noise would seep into the night air. On summer nights, the air smelled like metal and electricity.

I think this edit is too dark. Sometimes, I am a bit heavy-handed with my curves.

Texture of Place.

South Fourth Street. Sunbury PA.

South Center Street.

Werewolf Season.

I really like taking photographs like this and it’s been awhile since I have. That middle one and the werewolf, oh, they get me good.

I’m Wandering, A Loser Down These Tracks.

Former Right of Way. Sunbury PA.

I’ve been thinking, as much as I can think about non-work related…things, about the railroad. The steel rails that criss-cross this country have worked their way into my perception of space, understanding of transportation and the movement of freight. At night, I can hear the low, haunting whine of freight trains that rumble through the industrial park half a mile from where I lay my head. As I’ve mentioned before, I have really started to pay attention to the space that they occupy and the place that the right of way passes through. I find the terminology related to railroading to be quite interesting.

I had these ideas in the back of my head as I circled downtown Sunbury on Thanksgiving morning. As I’ve written about before, the train tracks in Sunbury run through town, slicing the town into two uneven parts. It was quiet and cold with the sun perpetually disappearing behind the clouds.

After I circled around town a few times, I parked my car next to the former Augusta House restaurant and started to walk.

Judy's Cafe.

I have a loose rule about photographing in towns, which I like to think allows me to see a bit more than driving around aimlessly. I walk 2 to 3 blocks away from my car, 2-3 blocks over and then walk back, forming a square or rectangle. I allow myself to wonder around and within that blocked off area, as a way to get a taste of the place I am. This way, I can return to a town again and again and in theory, I have a way to see the whole thing in bits and pieces. A place seems less daunting in blocks and numbers.

For Sale.

The south side of Sunbury is scarred with the past. The greying South Second Street leads out of town but not before passing silent school houses, worn houses, and remnants of industry. The train tracks run along on South Center Street, which is where I found myself towards the end of my exploratory morning. Taking long steps across the ties, I passed houses so close to the tracks that their front yards were thick gravel.

Hiding on South Center Street.

I hadn’t ever really seen this space before and I was struck by the staggered and strange juxtaposition of the houses on the left side of the tracks versus the right. Respectively, one side was dilapidated, with chipped paint and neglect while the other was well-kept and lawn-ornamented. I walked along the ties with the same strange step until I came to the last cross street in town. Here, the tracks passes behind the Weis Distribution center and in front of a groomed cemetery.

Wrong Side of the Tracks.

Here, that cross street marks the elusive edge of town. There are buildings, some houses, and a gas station beyond this point but the tracks follow the Susquehanna and then head out into farm land and mountains thick with trees. Edge of town: this demarcation seems loaded, heavy with potential and well, to be Springsteenian about it, darkness.

I didn’t get very far beyond the cross street. I crossed it but didn’t get much further, though I wanted to keep walking. I had been gone for much longer than I anticipated and hot mashed potatoes and gravy were waiting back at the house. As always, I made a mental note to return for another day.