Five cases of books hauled down from the attic. Some ten percent pulled out to keep, the rest boxed up to give away. I feel lighter already! Meanwhile, paths have been cleared in the garage. I swept out the dead leaves. Access has been created to gardening supplies. Just saying “gardening” in my head gives me a little jolt of joy.
I opened up the packet of my sister’s etching plates and was surprised to find these two. There are no associated prints, that I know of. I’ll be keeping these. Students of the Tarot will recognize The Magician.
A gifted bowl. Milkweed pods sprayed gold by my sister.
Even as the tableaux produces a pang about Noreen (she was rapidly declining this time last year), the simplicity pleases.
A worn wooden floor. An exalted weed. A textured bowl crafted by a friend, lively in its imperfection.
Our relationship to things changes over time, doesn’t it?
I’m always ready to take the decorations down before husband and somehow feel a little bad about that. What does my eagerness signal?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the sweet nutcrackers, the festive wreaths, and the sentimental decorations given to the boys year in and year out. They represent a life lived and lived with some modicum of joy.
They signal the advent of time-outside-of-time.
In other years, the enjoyment of displaying decorations and the pleasure at putting them away ran about 50/50. This year, there was no contest. I felt a visceral relief clearing the spaces. I can almost imagine not bothering with any of it at some point.
I’ll leave you with this shot from Finn’s and my morning walk and a stanza from a poem by Wallace Stevens:
I do not know which to prefer, / The beauty of inflections / Or the beauty of innuendoes, / The blackbird whistling / Or just after.
Look at the lovely Rosenthal platter — that flourish along the scalloped edge; delicate blue flowers draping off the rim. I have service for eight plus another smaller platter, a casserole, a tea pot (squat and round) and coffee pot (tall and slender), plus matching sugar and creamer, candlesticks.
They were a wedding gift from my mother.
Recall this: Mother is back from a trip to Germany with her second husband. They are seeing the world! While on the continent she buys an entire set of china for her daughter who, at the age of 33, is at last engaged to be married.
When Mother hands Daughter the crumpled brochure, Daughter doesn’t bother to hide her dismay. Are the dishes too feminine? Is she inclined toward blue these days? Such a fraught exchange!
They’ve been here before. A history of thwarted choices gives Daughter an unhealthy sense that she’s entitled to sour incivility. So many items ticked off! How much did Mother spend, exactly?
There will be a cost to Daughter’s wounding response and she knows it. It’s no longer a gift-giving occasion. It’s all about Mother’s hurt feelings. Daughter’s cooing and back peddling will be accomplished with a combination of guilt, annoyance, and compulsive, middle-child diplomacy. Of course the dishes will be beautiful! It took a second, is all! Of course, it was a generous gesture!
They’ve been here before, too.
Does it matter that I love the dishes now? That as I wash off the residue from last night’s dinner, I do so with care, knowing how inconsolable I’d be if the platter broke — my mother dead and gone these 22 years past. Stuff has the power to undo us sometimes.
The Weight of Things, Part II
We’ve purchased a shed in the sorry acknowledgement that our belongings have outpaced our capacity for sorting, disposal, or storage. The garage is packed: sports equipment, gardening tools, lumber, Christmas decorations, craft booth panels, two table saws, bikes and chairs. There’s beer brewing equipment, scuba gear, coolers, kayak paddles and beach chairs. At least three complete socket wrench sets, possibly more.
Now picture Son moving to Parts West with two suitcases. His entire apartment is boxed up in the garage, too. Now what? Most is too heavy to ship.
Too heavy indeed! Here are the pots and knives Mother purchased in such industrious cheer — the dish towels and extension cords, an array of spices! He’ll make curry and roast chickens! He’ll eat on Mexican dishes while looking at the spectacular skyline. Oh that view, Mother exclaimed, that view!
And then there was the dreadful pick up eight months later. Utter disarray.
Seeing these things makes for uneasy recollection. For some reason it is the contrast between the early optimism and the later despair that gets to me the most. I don’t know why. The hard questions arise, prime among them — how could I have missed so much?
I know how — because I wasn’t even looking.
It’s a little better now — maybe you can build up an immunity to memory by repeated exposure to triggering belongings. Things have resumed their status as objects. They are once again problems to be solved — sell? donate? keep?
The iron skillet is coming in the house, but — anybody want a waffle iron?
Thank you for all the bed bug wisdom and sympathy! I deleted a few things here and have moved on to my own mess. The bed bug professionals are up in Salem today, taking care of business and my sister is here visiting. It’s a beautiful fall day.
You might be shocked to know that this disarray of fabric is AFTER giving away about 25 LARGE bags of fabric over the course of the last two years. Furthermore, the picture above shows only three of six shelves. Further, there are seven dressers with their drawers full and bins on the floor!!
This is to the right of the picture above. That glorious paper shelving was a garbage pick. Over the years I have found so many wonderful things on the curb, but this bed bug event of my sister’s may have forever changed my view on that, sad to say. These shelves were thrown up the week we moved in as temporary storage. They’ve been useful for twenty plus years. But I had K remove these two so that I could move in a dresser from the garage. This killed two birds with one tiger saw — making more space in the basement AND the garage.
All empty!!! When did less start to feel so good? There is the ‘after’ shot. Not a huge “TA DA!”, but something.Enjoy the day! I plan to.This book will occupy some of my morning. Pad and paper the rest. We are going back to 1744 – the year of Eliza’s marriage to Charles Pinckney. Hmmmm, I wonder what she wore…
Sometimes it seems to me that my catalog of cloth pictures reads like a stream of unfinished projects. Actually, it turns the stomach, sometimes. Proof of need for an intervention!
I’m going to look back ONE YEAR and find a couple of featured projects and finish them roughly within that month (I mean, September is 2/3’s gone already). This is going to be ‘my thing’. I want to try this as a tool, though, and not as a ‘thing’ (i.e. “My Year of Finishing Work”, blah blah blah).
A little structure. A little time pressure. In conjunction, the two COULD work.
I hope that this process will be a lot like deciding not to grocery shop in my husband’s absence this week. Instead, I made do with what little was in the fridge. How gratifying it was (absurdly gratifying?)!
Sometimes, I will first have to FIND the thing. But’s that okay, and probably good and necessary.
The one above just needs a binding and dowel sleeve (well, and the intention to finish — that’s the point here).
Furthermore (and this is critical!), I here before you pledge not to get bogged down in the “PROBLEM” of what to do with the finished pieces. My Etsy store is deadsville and I can’t quite bring myself to sign up for any sales this fall. In fact, my domain name is up for renewal in a few weeks and I’m considering letting the website go. I mean, I never go there. Does anyone else?!!
Streamlining, focusing, empowering. Huh. And not to get too, too ambitious here, I have the same need with books. So, I will embark upon a parallel process with those.
There! A pledge. Two pledges.
And, of course, the Hearts for Charleston Quilt takes priority.