Monday, February 13, 2006

Walking away...

Alexander Solzhenitysn said that we should own only what we can carry with us. We should know language, know countries, know people and let memory be our travel bag. Living as an exile from Russia he knew what it was to continually leave things behind and as I pack up my apartment in expectation of leaving I wish that could say that I too own only what I can carry with me. But life, I've found, is the continual accumulation of stuff and clutter. Having lived as a nomad for the past ten years it's amazing the sheer volume of things that I have slowly acquired. Things that I don't need but like to have around. The sieve from Zambia, my grandmother's table cloth, the marble carving of a Chinese junk, the matrooshka stacking dolls. It's also amazing how quickly it can be packed away into boxes and shipped off to storage. (I may not be good at many things but packing I can do.) Looking at the corner where all the packed boxes are stacked I try to think if there were a fire right now and I could only take one or two boxes which would they be. And the answer is none of them. I would miss all of the accumulated trinkets and pictures but I need absolutely none of them. This, I realize, is a grace to have things but not own them, to possess things but not need them. There is very little any of us actually need and it is good, from time to time, to be forced to think of what those things are.

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