Friday, July 10, 2015

Sisyphus Lives Today

I have too much stuff! I thought I could purge unnecessary stuff by pitching small batches little by little. Have I even made a dent? Usually, what happened today happens. I get engrossed in the stuff I’m trying to discard. The old papers I grabbed to pitch today are error reports I sent in years ago to an educational publisher that paid me to fact-check some tenth grade English texts. Of course, I couldn’t just pull them from the file box and throw them away. No, I had to read them.

First fact was from a reading by Lame Deer: the boulder Sisyphus pushed up a hill again and again, only to have it roll back down each time. Seeing the topic took me back to my high school Latin class, where Mr. Siewert taught us about Greek mythology. I was amused to remember his delight in the Latin Lives Today lessons and his pronunciation of Sisyphus with a nasal lisp. Also amusing is that the story of Sisyphus is a perfect metaphor for trying to get rid of my stuff. I just manage to toss one stack of useless papers, and another pile pops up. In Sisyphus’ case, he was being punished. Hmmm …

The Sisyphus account in the English text was correct, according to my two sources. As was the entry on F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote a letter to his 12-year-old daughter in which he discussed things worth worrying about. René Magritte’s place in art history was correct, except the writer had spelled his name wrong. The Middle Dutch origin of the word buoy was correct except for one meaning: beacon. J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan was first performed on stage in 1904, not 1950. Colombia gained independence from Spain in 1810, not 1824. Chutney is, in fact, a relish common in Indian cuisine. Scrabble, inspired by crossword puzzles, was originally called Criss-Cross Words. It was trademarked Scrabble in 1948.

Hundreds of eclectic, fascinating facts in these English textbook readings by a wide variety of authors. If I could remember even ten percent of these facts, I’d be a whiz at crossword puzzles. Alas, my memory is such that I might not even pass high school English today.

What lengthened my pitching project more than the miscellany, however, was the flip sides. Years ago, I printed these fact-checking reports on the blank sides of pages I’d printed when planning a trip to Provence. Today I got to revisit color photos of Les Cerisiers in Hameau de Serres and stone farm houses in Peypin D’Aigues, Sablet, and Roussillon, wrought iron tables and chairs amidst fragrant thyme, lavender, and rosemary plants and cypress and olive trees, and sparkling blue pools. So I got to dream a bit, too.

And I noticed quite a few error reports have blank flip sides, so I can reuse those sheets. Wait—wasn’t my goal to pitch papers? Here I am, finding ways to keep some. Sisyphus lives today! Well, I can only hope the “found” quarter-ream will come in handy when I want to print out lodging info for my next France trip.

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