January 27, 2013

For The Love of Things...Gather, Create, Listen....

For The Love of Things

Last Friday,I packed up a year's worth of my precious things into my car for my move to Ithaca: sewing supplies, books, clothing and jewelry in every color to suit my moods, candles, essential oils, herbs...the list wash lush, and it went on and on. 

When I woke up the morning of my move, It was pouring down rain...I mean, like, pouring, pouring, rain. I nervously giggled at the rumbling thunder and sounds of a bonafide deluge...an interesting start to my trip!

Marty and I packed up the car at the break of rain, and from there on through Ohio and New York, we had  unseasonably sunny and warm weather. 

I ended up scrapping the idea of using my car topper; it was slick, filling with water quickly, and, as Marty pointed out...designed for another type of car. I parted with my book shelf and printer so that I could squeeze all my glorious and incredibly necessary things into the trunk and back seat. We even still had a visibility gap for my rear-view mirror to spare. I don't know how it happened, but, it did. I was actually proud of myself. Though, a little frustrated that I had to purchase more furniture than I had originally hoped to once I arrived in Ithaca. 

Oh. I don't want to be Zen. Is that bad?

NOT one of my things...but, never the less, entertaining.
If I wasn't trying to be good, this would be one of my things..
Over five years of living with a very minimalist partner, I have had lots of time to ponder {and defend} my relationship to precious things and my attachment to them. 

When I moved to my Marty's home in Lexington, he literally had a futon in the middle of the floor that he folded up and put away daily. There was a dresser, a few framed photos of his siblings that were given to him as gifts, and a small rack of clothing. Needless to say, when I arrived, his Zen motif was overthrown by a plethora of plants, an entire closet of shoes, shelves decked out with pretty rocks, feathers, and granny-chic knick-knacks. Oh, and books, lots of books. 

Hearing voices when I shop is healthy, right?

When I shop, I  hear voices. It is mainly the voice of Marty in question of my possible purchase, "Do we really need that cheese slicer? Do you really need another puffy sweater?".  It is slightly creepy, but in the long run, it has been great. It shows me that indeed, I do have self-discipline, though regulated by voices in my head. I feel comfortable with the fact that I love to acquire things, particularly those to redecorate a room or make a new object. Now, that being said, my favorite places to shop are thrift stores, fabric stores, paint stores, and craft stores. It's not like I am spending an arm and a leg here. 

However, in the past, I would listen in admiration to others' stories on how and why they have chosen to live a life with very few things. It seems heroic and brave the way people share their journey of letting go of objects. I have definitely felt a sense of inadequacy at times over not having given almost all my belongings away, which was silly and self-induced.  That being said, sometimes I think minimalists can insinuate an air of feeling they are more evolved than those who are not minimalist. But, the way I see it is, attachment to identity is heavier than any object in this world could ever possibly be. 

We shop because we are hunters and gatherers!

I realize that quite often, that by shopping, we acquire not only an object, but a sense of satisfaction and achievement. I think, however simple-minded shopping may seem, a shoppers satisfaction comes from a place much deeper than petty spending and buying. 

A few years ago, it dawned on me, that by shopping, some of us are trying to live out our innate desire to collect things in our roles as gatherers (be you male or female). Either way, it was an excellent argument with my partner because he hasn't really said much of a word about it since then, except for when he makes a partly serious comment on "my gathering" for that particular day.

 I shared this notion with a friend not long ago and she had just been discussing the same idea of shopping-as-a-way-of-gathering with her partner. So...how many more of us can relate to this or have already felt this? Feel a little more relief and less guilt? 

Now...I thought my lesson ended in #1. embracing my love to gather things #2. Allowing myself to simply enjoy being surrounded by a sanctuary of a home--made of my own collecting. #3 Confiding in friends and realizing... shhhh, they too love things and actually, they aren't here to judge you. 

But, I was wrong, there was more. 

Packing for a year possibly tells you what is really important to you.

Though I have kicked around a rough draft on our relationship to things and the relativity to gathering the past year, only now has it come almost full (or maybe a never ending) circle. It all boils down to a photo of a spiral that I took only  a few days ago (below). . 

I thought my lesson had ended with accepting my love for things. But, during my drive up, I had an even bigger living-realization about my relationship with collecting things.

I feel more satisfied when I create. 

But, first, a quick reality check: I like the idea that what we pack says a lot about ourselves. But, honestly, it's more like an ideal version of ourselves... Oh, look I have a Ukulele. I have only played it like 10 times since I acquired it (most of them being within the first week that I got it). So, here is a real test of human relationships to things...I will see what I use most often and what the real me is made of!

 I see this year away from Kentucky home as a time to practice the art of honoring and making time for the things I love. Living a life you love seems to be a simple, but somehow seemingly complicated key to enjoying life. 

Maybe some of us collect to create.

When I was in high school, my mother and I loved to drive around on big trash day to find things like old chairs, headboards, tables, and dressers that we could revive with a vision.  It was such a joy to see something old, worn, and outlived, as a treasure waiting to be revived. Often, I would see the piece and know exactly what it wanted to become. The best part was working with what I had and within a certain set of perimeters, just as I have generally done when decorating my home or sewing a garment. Things seem more creative that way...at least for me. 

Above are some cards I made while living in the Delta for a short summer in 2008. I had very little money to spend, but, was working on historic window restoration. I could not resist the colorful paint chips on store runs! I made a collection of colorful bird birthday cards with an original idea, paper bags, glue, and scissors. It was one of my more favorite projects that year, during a time where I made little time for fun. 

Natures little treasures

It took this photo along the shore of a little village that borders Pennsylvania and New York...it is one of my favorite places in the world. 

Here, I have experienced some of the most beautiful sunsets, and make it a point to stop whenever driving up the NE coast.  There is a little diner up the street from this particular stretch of shore on Lake Erie.

 I think the place may have a population of like 108, with an average age of 75 or something. It's an enchanting place. If I were ever in a position to have a hermit retreat-like home, this may be the post.

I decided I would like to have a rock to place on my new altar. I left most of my feathers and rocks at home in order to make space for new energy to speak to me. When I began my walk, a particular soft stone in the shape of an elongated triangle spoke to me. It was like an arrow head and I appreciated its possible indication of direction. 

My first memory of meeting Lake Erie is heart filling: Marty and I walked up to this beach not really knowing it would be there. It felt pleasantly isolated and completely dreamy.

I squatted down at the edge of the water and it glistened with a total rainbow of pastels. As it moved, I watched, totally mesmerized...it really seemed to go on forever like an ocean. Hundreds of tiny rocks rolled over one another at high tide making the loveliest tinkling sounds ever. I closed my eyes, the air was crisp and cool. The colors of the rocks were also amazing and rainbow-esque; little fractions of the sunset, but of an earthy tone.

As I walked along the pebble beach this past visit, I found myself gathering more beautiful stones than I felt comfortable...there were just so many colors to be found. 

Create, let go...hold on...

I felt overwhelmed so I sat down to decide which three (at the most) to keep.

 I felt that I should not have more than one rock...if any at all. I sat and looked at the sand, and began playing with the stones.

 Half conscious of my actions, I admired each little stone for their own beauty and flaws and lined them into a spiral and in something of a color order. 

I used all the rocks I collected, and many more that surrounded...I coincidentally used almost all but the very first arrow-shaped rock that called to me. That lay to the right of the spiral.

I took a photo of this spiral, because, I knew that my work was done and I could not take it with me. I collected the rocks, created something that I felt was beautiful. It was fulfilling knowing that the tide would wash it away. It was meant to be that way. 

My feelings of wanting to take rocks with me vanished.

 It was a really interesting observation of my gut feeling, and knowing, and it was very real. It was similar to the joy I get from seeing beautiful things, but, much more lasting. I didn't need to collect many rocks so they could get dusty in my house. They needed to stay alive on the shores of the lake!

 By creating something, my need to collect had left me and I was able to listen. 

So, here I am, again questioning my love for things... I have wondered: While I am in school learning to gather and made medicines from tree bark, fungi, roots, berries, seeds and so on...will my need to collect and gather things outside of nature diminish? 

Do I collect things now in order to live out some hidden purpose to gather? How much of this feeling a need to gather truly comes from a need an untapped source of creation? How long have I stunted my sense of real satisfaction by taking more time to gather than create and listen? 

And, a side note, in case you too like purging your domain...

Though I love kitschy, cozy, or sparkly things, I also love purging my belongings twice a year or more. I basically have an on going goodwill box, and when I buy something, I try to get rid of something else that I know someone else may use more than I would. One great way to do this is through a local Free Market, or Free Cycle. Once I began to go to free Markets, I was able to clear my belongings to a whole new level. Here is a link to the Lexington Really, Really, Free Market Facebook group page.  Really, Really, Free Markets are a place where you can find glowing humans as they walk away with a rowing machines, camping gear, clothing, books...etc. If you go, bring something! Likely you have something you can get rid of that will make someone else really, really happy and it just makes the whole experience more fun for everyone. 

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