29 November, 2003 Keeping things, keeping people
Iíve been going through my things to sort out what I have to keep and what I can give away.
Itís a very interesting process, and strange. Why should I feel now that I simply should not
own so much? Why do I not want to have roots or a place other than the van that I drive in?
I kept a book that Marion lent me years ago, on home decorating. I donít need it, I have not
read it, I will never read it. But it was hers, and it had a sheet of paper in it on which
she made notes about decorating for winter and changing simple things for summer. Nothing I
can imagine doing, but that doesnít matter. It was hers, and I felt I couldnít get rid of it.
But why? Having a book of Marionís that she hadnít intended to give me doesnít bring her back.
Giving it away wouldnít make her any less part of my life than she was before she died or than
she is now. Do things really attach us to people? Do I need the things to keep the people
with me? I wonít even consider going through Paulís things to see whether I need any of them,
I have already decided to simply move that box unopened. Along with the folder of notes
labeled ďDaĒ which mostly contains scribbled messages with his latest hospital room or the
phone number of the latest nursesí station to find out how heís doing. I know thereís nothing
of value or importance in that folder, but I donít want to think of not keeping it. I think
it also contains a copy of his will, and a certificate saying that some trees were planted
somewhere in his name, or his memory, or some other irrelevant and inappropriate thing.
Do these pieces of paper mean anything?
Two weeks from now, I should probably return to everything I plan to keep, and get rid of
half of it. I bet I could, too. But Iíve already packed some of the stuff, and I have to
pack more just to get it out of the way when people start coming over to look at furniture.
People keep asking me about ďmy tripĒ and about where Iíll go after I ďreturn from my trip.Ē
They donít understand that I donít see this as a trip, I see it as a different way of living.
And as an opportunity to explore living in a very different way Ė without a lot of things,
without a lot of space, without a fixed community or roots. Everyone else seems to live
like a tree, putting down deep roots and flourishing where they stand, reaching out their
branches to the community and the roots to the souls of the people around them. I suppose
Iím a dandelion fluff by comparison, or better yet some kind of water plant that drifts and
swims, picking up nourishment from the water and sun around it, and not having to be fixed
in place at all. One of those fascinating weeds in the Hudson, with the super sharp barbs
and so many different forms depending on where they are in their life cycle. The closest
they have to a fixed home is their barbed anchor that can be delicately pulled up so they
continue to drift with the river. Thatís me, the sharp barbs, and so many different life
forms, but quite interesting if youíre willing to be patient and see whatís there.
I saw FranÁoise, who was a grad student with me, in Harvard Square on Wednesday. She seemed
to feel it was delightful but unusual that we still see each other, and have things to talk
about when we do. I saw Janice, too, whom I have hardly seen since she was on my dissertation
committee. That was a lot of fun. Sheís truly a character, in the same way as Sam in
New Brunswick. I donít really want to be close to any of these people, or have them as
regular fixed parts of my life, but it is great to keep them in my life.
I have been thinking about keeping a journal that I email around to people during my travels.
Iíve thought it was a bit pretentious, to assume that they would want to read any of it.
But in fact I see now that it isnít really about them wanting to know about me Ė it is
about wanting to keep them in my life as I move around. If I donít have a fixed place
in the world, at least spatially, then I need to keep a lot of fixed points that I am
tied to by slender but sturdy threads, so that my life is not simply disconnected.
Continue to the next entry.