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Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Year of Transition -- Stuff and Things and Strings and Such

I have been thinking a lot about THINGS of late, physical, material things... not so much in the sense that "thinking about things" is often meant. You see, in this Year of Transition I am very aware that I am stepping onto the pages of the last volume of my life... the true "crone years" which will inevitably end in my demise. No, I'm not expecting to turn that corner any time soon and to be honest I hope I don't. There are far too many things undone, projects incomplete -- let alone unstarted -- and seasons to be savored, unfettered by having to get myself off to work regularly. And while I hope to be able to meet the turn to the Summerlands with grace and dignity -- I have no fear of whatever comes next, or even of just ending if that be the case, when the time comes -- I have been thinking about what shall become of the Things that have become attached to me over the years.

I see everything that exists as having a thread -- or threads -- in what I call the Tapestry of Life. Every rock, tree, seed, every bit of trash, road sign, person, animal... as they come into existence and "move" through time, has at least one thread. That stop sign at the corner, most likely it has just one. But should it become a part of an accident scene... or lovers' memories as they steal a brief kiss on the way home from a noteworthy date... well it will likely pick up more threads as it attaches to the situations and memories that surround it.

We humans are bundles of bundles of threads. Just think about it; when we get stressed and confused and loose our way, we often say we "have become unraveled!" Our stout strand, which is at once unique and discernible in the Tapestry can get lost amonst the myriad of other threads, as we loose our focus and are pulled here and there by the strands of this person and that, this situation and the next one.

And associated with our bundle are many smaller threads, of the many things that pass through our lives, some more fleeting (that doughnut you grabbed on the way to work this morning) and some that unexpectedly become part of our lives and memories: a favorite sweater, a needed tool that fits the hand perfectly, a coffee mug gifted by a friend that brings to mind both friend and shared experience.

At least that's how I see the world.

I know that "stuff" has power in other ways, as well. Our common culture hounds us with the notion that if we only have the right stuff, wear the right stuff, eat the right stuff... well that we will somehow BE successful, beautiful... and it seems they are always upping the ante, because for the purveyors of said stuff to be successful, they need to keep selling more and more of it.

So "Stuff" also has the power to enslave us -- whether it by pursuit of it (just need a little bit more and I will be... ) or by possession of it (think hoarders here, but stuff also frequently needs upkeep and maintenance...)

Stuff can also bind us in a good way. That heirloom vase from Grandma Jane, even if from the Five and Dime, which sat on her table all spring and summer with bouquets from the garden; which sat in a cupboard in mom's tidy apartment, to be brought out only when tiny hands proffered bunches of dandelions from the park; which finds its way into the heart and home of one of the dandelion-bringers years hence... That humble vase and its thread of memories connect generations across eons.

I have to wonder, though, if the Stuff of the modern world will have such power two generations down the road? And if not, how much will be lost of the connections between years, and generations?

I have been thinking about my Stuff, as you can probably tell. Thinking that it's time to get a will made. Wondering what of my Stuff I should bequeath -- and just how to manage it. None of my stuff has any intrinsic value. I don't have any "vintage toys" in their "original packaging." No valuable antiques. Oh, likely there is an antique or two but equally likely I am still using them for their intended purpose!  And I wonder if any of my stuff will have the kind of power that they do for me, for my offspring -- most of whom grew up being actively mothered by their father's third wife.

I have a camera bag full of camera stuff: the Kodak Brownie that I used as a girl in the late 50s; the Pentax SLR that followed the Brownie when I needed an SLR to use with my telescope; the 3-D still camera with it's two lenses I used to shoot slides in the late 60s... and others accumulated along the way, all using various types of actual film. THEY have lots of threads and power for me; as much as I like my current digital camera, it's just a tool.

I have those vases from Grandma Katie, that were mom's... and a big one that "came with the house" along the way. I have the first vegetable peeler I ever liked (and still use it!); the blade was firmly affixed to its handle, not like the popular ones that rattle and shake. When the blade and handle parted company, the kid's dad carved me a new one from a piece of wood; it's still on the peeler and the tool is in everyday use. I have a bottle and can opener that also needed a new handle, which was carved by the kids' dad and which we painted bright yellow and red -- like many of our tools in "the canyon years" to make them easier to find in the woods and to mark them as ours at community pot lucks.
I have two flat whisks -- reminiscent of the one my grandmother used to make gravy, which for a long time was the only way I COULD make gravy. Somewhere along the way, Grandmother's whisk vanished (did I leave it with the girls when I separated from their dad?) and I looked in vain for a replacement for years. When I finally found one, I bought TWO (under the principle of "one to use, one to loose" that I have espoused for years). I don't use them much now, as I have learned to make gravy with the more common style whisk or -- amazingly -- with a fork, like my mother did!

I have a cloth coat with a fox fur collar -- currently in need of re-lining (that's on the "when I retire, next fall, do it" list) that belonged to a favorite aunt. I used to have my mom's mink stole, but while that fur held energy and power for Mom, it never had much meaning for me. For that energy, I was glad to get my aunt's coat. I know Mom had wanted a mink "coat" for a long time. I really don't know why. Perhaps it meant, to her, that the daughter of a first-generation immigrant - who spoke English with a think German accent to the day she died, having given up her mother tongue in the war years (WWI) - and a railroad breakman-turned-farmer - RN and wife of a small town school teacher had reached the middle class. Perhaps it said to her that my dad really did love her... even though it was only a stole and not a coat and likely not the best mink on the planet.  I only recall her wearing it once or twice and mostly it hung in the back of her closet. My aunt wore her coat all fall, winter and spring and looked SO glamorous with the pouffy collar and 3/4 sleeves, which called for long, elbow-length gloves. My aunt, the wife of a doctor, bought her coat herself, out of the proceeds of her business -- a china and gift shop that grew out of a ceramics hobby shared by Aunt Berniece and several of her friends. And I think, even as a young girl, the impact of that context spoke to me.

And I have many, many "witchey" things... candle holders, cornucopias, seasonal trinkets that decorate the altar in their turn... from Odin-esque versions of "Father Christmas," tiny fir and birch trees to a turtle shell, three-frequency pine cone branch... you get the idea. Each is full of history and meaning and most were found, gathered or made. ...Things with energies that do not need to be thrown into a box and into the trash -- or sent anonymously to a charity store.  ...Things that need to find homes, when I am no longer actively working these threads, with folks who WILL.

And so, I have been thinking about Things and about Stuff In General. No conclusions... just thoughts, hopefully some conclusions will come along in time.