Gero-Punk Contemplations: Clutter

 By Guest Gero-Punk

Melinda E. Pittman


(Guitar Goddess is by Owen Carey Photography)

The cellar is damp, crepuscular. Corners, crowded with form, seem to shift while waves /particles swirl in the wintering sun. Matter and energy, momentarily captive, are freed to waft across dozens of piles of time. Boxes and boxes of paper, symbolically essentialized by dyes from rock and plant and squid, sequenced dance steps, footprint patterns across slivered tree pulp, arcane yet familiar. The paradox of years of experience and reflection synthesized, concentrated into a demi-glace of insight, pan drippings from a feast of life and art.

All I have is metaphoric.

As our appearance-oriented and materially socialized culture boxes me in, I hear the demands: “Pick up! Clear out! Clean up this mess!” I imagine each of us universalized, pressure-washed to remove the “past” and get on with the “future,” as if those states existed apart from each other. As if they had no cross sectional vibrancy. The past’s jumble to be disposed of. Now.

Why does clutter make us nervous?

From the Online Etymology Dictionary, we learn the word’s derivation arises from English sources in the fourteenth century C.E., “to collect in heaps,” as a variation of clotern “to form clots, to heap on (from the 1400s C.E.)” The additional meaning of “clutter” suggests “to litter” emerged in written records from the late seventeenth century C.E. Used as a noun, clutter arose in the late sixteenth century C.E., the Dictionary informs me, with the meaning”things lying in heaps or confusion.” Heaps. Confusion. Clotted litter. (


Dozens of brimful boxes heap in the basement, the attic, the garage. Sixty plus years of mementos, show programs, newspaper articles, photos, posters, cassette tapes, even vinyl, the ephemera of a life in art. Each phenomenon covered by dusts and musts of time, sullied by a litter of titles bespeaking diminishment and unimportance. Trash-Stuff-Horde-Mess-Ash-Rubble-Confusion-Clutter. OR- When labeled with a slightly gentler language-symbol: Recycling.

Such meaning-word-symbols reveal our socially conditioned privileging of newness, individualism and simplification and our forgetfulness of what and who has come before. Who and what sculpted my memories and experiences? Whose craft added splashed colors, gifting a spectrum of tints and thoughts to these beige paper piles? Which sheen glossed the next? What pentimento hides beneath the Bic? How deeply dynamic does inspiration delve?

It’s one paradox of being an aging artist. These moted, dusted pages conjure essentialized, uniquely unoriginal inspiration.

Art is creation and excrement. Creation by definition is new… something original coming into being. AND- Art is inspiration exhaled. Internalized in the inner cauldron and spit forth to lubricate the world. A concoction of air and aspiration, of psyche and symbol, of experience and vibration and awe. Excrement is what comes out when you’ve used the elements, combined them into a phlegm of energetic expression. The compounded result distilled, reduced to present time and practical space. Art is the left overs, the dust. Art is what remains after ideas and beauty agitate phenomena into form. Swirling motes in a wintering sunbeam.

So I trace my finger through the dust accumulated, vacuum hose at ready, recycling bag at my feet. Paradox in the air. “You’re only as good as your next show,” saith the adage of actors who add age. Older art and older artists appropriated to basements, or attics or footnotes. Done with. Detritus of what was once desire. Inspiration molded. Magic mildewed.

Older artists often dumpsterized as the dirt, the refuse, the clutter obscuring “young’” creatives. YET- All art is phenomenal, immediate, quantum, liminal, isn’t it? All art is young and old. Art is always the next step, always the past presented [pre’- sented AND present’-ed.] Every idea is cluttered by inspirations assimilated. Ingenius genius.



Melinda E. Pittman is an essayist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, composer, musician, singer, theatrical director, producer, stand-up and sit-down comic, and community activist. She performed with the infamous parody comic quartet, the Fallen Angel Choir, then founded and toured the original comic musical theatre company BroadArts Theatre, serving as their Artistic Director for 14 years. Author of 15 full length musical plays, her work WonderBroads won the Angus Bowmer Oregon Book Award for Best Drama in 2000. She earned her B.A. in Theatre from Virginia Tech in 1975 and her Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies from Marylhurst University in 2013.

About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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