The Weight Of Things

 

 

tree leaves autumn color

 

An elderly neighbor of mine passed away last autumn. I didn’t realize this until the following spring when I saw people pull up in front of her little green house on the corner to carry away her things. First it was the chair, then a couch and a tall lamp.  This came as a surprise as change tends to do. Abrupt and unexpected. She was old and frail and we’d seen less and less of her over the years.  Her son Lenny lived with her and tended to the maintenance of the house and yard. He was a shy and gentle soul who never let anyone get to know him except for the neighborhood cats, which he attracted in droves.

As neighbors go they were my favorites. I like shy and gentle people, the elderly and cats.  I was a bit pissed at myself for not knowing what had happened for almost 6 months.

MM suggested we go over and take a look at the obvious to us now, estate sale that was happening at the little green house on the corner.  I admit I was curious as I had never been inside. I wondered where her son was as I got on my shoes and we headed over.

 

 

P1020265

Half the neighborhood was there sprinkled among the other shoppers.   I was stricken at first at how cramped it was, full of people pawing through Angie’s things. I felt funny. I didn’t know her all that well but now I felt sort of protective of her stuff and her memory. I took a quick tour of the downstairs bedroom. I saw her hairbrushes and clothes for sale. It seemed all too intimate, all too strange and all too much.

 

Oh I had spoken to her several times over the years exchanging cards at Christmas and the like. I knew she had lived there for over 40 years and had raised a  family, watched most her children  move away and start lives of their own. I know her husband had died there. I know that she seemed somewhat hard and no nonsense. I know that my preconceived notions about her had allowed me to keep her at arms length like I do with most people.

 

But now it was so different, so final..

 

The rooms were tiny and jam packed with various things. It was overwhelming right away: there was so much. It was difficult to take it all in. The first thing I zeroed in on was a set of commemorative dishes priced at $650 dollars next to a tin of cocoa marked “new” and on sale for one dollar.  Along with old dishes and salt and pepper shakers shaped like Minnie and Mickey, there was a package of paper towels for sale and paper napkins.  Who buys this stuff? I wondered to myself and more importantly who sells this? I was tempted to open the refrigerator to see if there was some old milk for sale but decided against it.

 

old toys

 

MM beckoned me up the flight of steep creaky stairs that led to the upstairs bedrooms, all small and filled to the brim with stuff. Old holiday decorations and kids toys  neatly arranged in boxes. It was hard to believe they had hung on to these items for so long.

The atmosphere was oppressive, it was thick with oldness and stagnation.  I could  feel the 40 years of history there.  This was once a place of life and hopes and dreams and now only lost memories remained. It was as if the remains of a sweetness had stagnated and turned acrid; buried under the heaviness of the years.

It wasn’t long before I had to get out. Needless to say I didn’t buy anything, I wasn’t planning to.

 

want graffiti_geotagged_consumerism_442716_o

 

 

Time passes so quickly. It’s too easy to just go with the flow and let circumstance carry you along.  I am in the midst of that and I sensed my neighbor was too but only she had floated farther than I…and stayed too long, accumulated too many things with too many links to the past. So many that there was scant room for anything or anyone else.

So much stuff with so many memories attached to them. It’s easy to do; hang on to things. I too have that pack rat mentality. Sometimes you never know when you may need something.

 

More importantly, these cherished bits of happiness; intangible memories encased in tangible objects enable us to hold a piece of the past. It seems holding on to these things brings us closer to what we miss.  It’s a little silly when you think about the significance we give to objects, it’s not logical.  But who is logical?  Especially not when we love someone. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I truly understood how important mere objects can become.

 

I have limited myself  a few items, tokens of memory, attached to a person not so much as a time. A few items: a Buddha statue of my father’s and his namesake tree in the front yard.  A tiny doll my teenage daughter played with when she was younger, The blue striped blanket my son came home from the hospital with. I have kept the odd concert ticket, a tiny figurine from when I was 4. There isn’t much.

 

Birds-Flying-above-the-Sea-at-Sunrise__56028-1024x682

I’ve been ruminating on this experience all summer. It’s prompted me to re think the way I’m living my life.  How I hang on to needless things. The tangible and the not so tangible. Outdated stuff, old baggage, outgrown ideas and ways of thinking.  How possessions can possess the possessor and how little by little all this stuff we accumulate weigh us down… keeps us from flying.

 

 

Perhaps my neighbor missed her chance to fly, maybe her son being thrown out of the nest so late is in flight now.  At any rate we all must go someway, somehow.  I ponder this as I watch my neighbor’s tree come down foot by foot until it’s gone and I realize it’s been blocking what I see now is a great view of the mountains.

 

~Nancy

 

 

“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

freedom shadow butterfly woman sunset

 

Related Articles

.

 

In My Life / Jake Shimabukuro

 

♦ 

Advertisements

20 thoughts on “The Weight Of Things

  1. I’ve been thinking about this post since you posted it, unsure of how to describe its impact on me. You speak directly to my dilemma of “stuff.” Too much of it. Music, photographs, compact disks, craft supplies – what of all this do I truly use, do I truly need? And so many things that are icons, taking me back to wonderful places and times and people, reigniting memories until they glow. None of these things are what anyone would call precious or valuable – rocks from the seashore in Ireland; the folding camp cup that my father took to boy scout camp, and that he gave me to take to girl scout camp; the lanyard that Sue, my camp counselor, made for my birthday; eucalyptus nuts from a retreat center in Santa Barbara; acorns and sea shells and sharks teeth. You get the drift. And I wonder, do these things, no matter how wonderful the memories they inspire, keep me pinned to the past and prevent me from being fully alive in the present? Do they pin my wings and keep me from flying in the world of now? Would my life feel more spacious, my thoughts less crowded, if I let them all go? And what to do with them if I do want to let go? How do I honor what they meant to me as I remove them from my life. Oh, I could go on and on…instead I will remember that the view of the mountains opened for you.

    Like

    • Just like everything else: Moderation is best. From what you describe Janet your items all are unique with strong memories attached. Difficult to part with. Some of my items are alive and literally rooted to the ground: The tree named after my dad. The tree my son got in the first grade, my daughters flowers, just a name a few. Do these keep me rooted to one place? I have been living here for almost 15 years. When do I move on?
      We have these questions in common my friend…and we probably know the answers as well.

      Like

  2. I agree, you need to declutter sometimes. Luckily I have a small flat and cannot keep too much. So when I buy something , something else has to go. I do have some memorable items in a box…. and then you think , where will that go eventually! My mum’s house is still full of stuff. My sister admires me that I don’t keep everything…… You are making a great point here!

    Like

  3. The photographs of the tree and roses are amazing! My husband is a keeper-of-things and I am much less so. I would love to purge the “stuff” from our lives. I am hoping our transition from this temporary apartment to our Desert home will allow for some decluttering.

    Like

  4. I also hold on to too many things. Most of the items I hold onto, or can’t let go of are items from when my children were little. I have just recently decided to keep only two or three very meaningful times per child – of course I will keep all the photos etc, but these are little things, like a favourite little dress.

    Thank you for your lovely post Nancy, you write straight from the heart ❤

    Like

  5. That is sad. But I like where you went…the mountains. There is something to be said for being more of a minimalist too…but sometimes it is those memories that get us to hold on more…yet again that bigger picture does put it in perspective. We are not what we own and the memories stay with us longer than the items that held it.

    Like

    • I know what you mean Niaaeryn. It is the memories, not the things that are important. Many of my memories are tied to living things; trees and flowers. I even named the tree we planted a couple years ago after my dad who had recently passed away. “The William” thrives today and is starting to turn bright yellow for fall. Thanks for coming by and for your always thoughtful comments.

      Like

  6. It’s quite sad really, that her children asked strangers in to buy the things she had carefully kept.
    Someone close to me died last winter and as I walked through her rooms I saw how little she possessed. And how orderly she had been. She had given away almost everything she had ever been given, and just a cupboard full of photo albums remained. I had a good sort out at home then and threw out loads of my “stuff” hoping i had learned from her example. So thanks for reminding me Nancy. Yes, we all hang on to too much baggage, and not just physical things!
    Enjoy that view of the mountains. xx

    Like

    • Yes Cathy. It is sad. I have seen it before; relatives getting greedy. I thought the sale in poor taste, it was done by a professional, I suppose that is how it works. I like friend’s way of not holding on to so much. I am looking to simplify and that is a perfect example.

      Like

  7. I have always wondered about folks who hold on to their possessions like it’s the only thing holding them to the ground… it’s so easy to let possessions become the be all, end all in life.

    This is a beautiful, introspective read, and I enjoyed it.

    Like

  8. Thank you for this, Nancy. I’m one of those who’s holding on to too much stuff as life nears its end. I know that I need to get rid of stuff, and yet I have such a hard time letting go the reminders of the past. Maybe this will prompt me to let loose. For me, it’s mostly books, photos, and papers. The toys (the ones not broken) I already gave to grandchildren.

    Like

Join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s