"Over time, in the daily scramble of coming and going, anything small and loose gets dumped higgledy-piggledy into the drawers. All the odds and ends out of pockets and briefcase, and all the bits and pieces that seem to turn up on the table, and all those loose parts that are handed to me by my wife with the comment, 'Here, this is yours, put it somewhere.' In the 'somewhere' drawers, of course. Inevitably, there comes the crisis when what I put somewhere is nowhere to be found.

"Last Sunday I carefully emptied out all the drawers and laid out the pieces as if they had been found in an archaeological dig. A small-scale museum display of a life. In addition to most of the items that are supposed to be there, I found these:

"loose change, matches (both unused and used), Kleenex (ditto), nails, screws, nuts and bolts and washers, miscellaneous mechanical parts of unknown purpose, pipe cleaners, a computer disc, one of my wife's lipsticks, various notes scribbled on scraps of paper, two unmailed letters, three opened rolls of Rolaids, four Chapsticks (mostly used up), five assorted small batteries, six odd buttons, loose pipe tobacco, one sock, one cuff link, two pencil stubs, refill cartridges for fountain pen and ballpoint pen (used and unused), bicycle wrench, a clothespin, a deck of cards, an unsmoked cigar, a partially smoked cigar, a nail file and toenail clippers, gum wrappers but no gum, used and unused Band-Aids, the corpses of a fly, a moth and two tiny beetly bugs, and a lot of dust and tiny trash.

"I kid you not.

"But then, you aren't surprised, are you?

"Industriously, I washed out the drawers with soap and water, relined them with brown Kraft paper (carefully fitted), and ruthlessly triaged the former contents. Much of it went in the trash can.

"A sack of the possibly useful items got dumped into the even bigger drawer in the kitchen. This is called putting things 'somewhere else.' (Someday, someday, I'll sort that one out.)

"Carefully, thoughtfully, I replaced the proper contents in their proper little wicker baskets in their proper drawers and slid the drawers home into their slots in the chest.


"The drawer ritual is complete.

"My drawers are clean, neat, and worthy of respect.

"And on some level, for at least a little while, so is my life.

"The ritual of the drawer is deeply satisfying.

"Such an accomplishment!

"How can something so mundane seem so important?

"It has ritual value — as a metaphor of larger designs.

"I wonder how many times in my life I have done this?

"Often enough to know I will go through this cycle again sometime next year.

"Often enough to know this ritual for what it is: not tidying drawers but a symbolic manipulation of the paradoxical nature of my life in general. Order and purpose giving way to disorder and confusion giving way to getting organized again. On a secret level, the ritual of revival.

"Even undressing, taking a shower and washing my hair and trimming my beard and filing my nails, and then getting into clean, fresh clothes will suffice sometimes. Same deal. Getting my act together. Revival. Whatever it takes, whatever works to lever the wheels back onto the tracks."