Monday, August 22, 2011

Cycles of Stuff

We are born with nothing…  thus began the letter to the editor that Fred, a resident of the Palmer Pioneer Home,  had written to the Anchorage Daily News about the cycles of stuff that accumulate around our lives.  I had Fred’s letter on my refrigerator for years.   I scanned  it in an effort  to reduce the amount of paper I’d be storing.   Evaluating, sifting, recycling, gifting and disposing of current belongings has been a big part of my life recently. 
The realities are two-fold:  what stuff is important to hold on to and leave in storage here in Alaska and what stuff will be important for the days ahead.   I’m doing pretty well on the former.   

My  long-term belongings will fit in the storage closet in my house in Spenard, including the skis, the bicycle, the smoke ring that Joe gave me (a precious quivit knitted neck warmer big enough to pull over your head), 30 years of journals, the kitchen accoutrements, a red stool, the dresser from Salvation Army with the handpainted rendition of the Begich Tower, the special piece of yard art.    All of it, when laid out, would fit in the back of a pickup truck.   What I have decided tor retain fits into three categories:  stuff that I know I will use again, stuff that has historic value and stuff that, in some part, contributes to my self-perception.

As one takes off on a journey like the one I am facing, those choices about what kind of objects to have in the baggage can take on a broader meaning.  Without the comfort of home, the use of stuff to define your being has less value, but is still important. There are  things that can be used for many purposes, like the wall hanging silk painting of dragonflies that hung in my living room.  It folds up to nothing and could work as a privacy screen, a sarong or a prop in an interpretive dance piece.  But mostly, the questions on stuff are centered around what may make life easier and seem to be landing on technology.
  Purchase an ereader?  What about replacing  the  older laptop that is working just fine, except for the color display issues that manifested when it fell off the couch in July?   Do I spend more more for something  I’d really like (but at higher risk for getting stolen)  or just muddle through?   Waiting never really hurt on technology purchases and as long as I have the internet to back up the electronic files, I’m set.

Sifting through the boxes of paper  and the accumulations of the past reminded me of the last time I did a big launch for points unknown in 1989, Armed with $1,000 and my car, I ended up working my way around the US for seven years until I landed in Juneau.  Some objects I still have with me.  The special small stone, the dopp  kit, my brain are all tools to bring along, but what others?   The list is starting to form:  compass, maybe the mini-vise grips and a micro-screw driver with a small roll of duct tape, the USB drive, a few decent bras, work clothing that can look professional in the tropics,  the  Vitamin E  face cream , flip flops, a decent selection of working pens and a journal to overflow into.   But what else?    What is the value of schlepping along rather than just doing without?  What influences our choices to buy vs. rent vs. do without?   With the transition over to Holly and Sama’s house for a long housesitting gig next week, I’ll be packing up again with another chance to sift through what’s really needed.

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