Most of my stuff lives in a rented storage unit. Today, I miss some of it.
I miss knowing exactly where to find the oddities that made up my familiar, useful things. The missing comes from the need to pack for a trip that requires, in my opinion, some specific stuff I’ve been saving for just such a trip: into the wilderness, but not far.
I’ve found substitutes for most. The flea market at the end of this street offers amazing oddities, and the boys who run it give me very good prices in return for my word-of-mouth advertising. They have a back room stacked to the ceiling with useful things and beautiful things.
My favorite things are both, simultaneously. Useful things may be created with an eye for aesthetics or become beautiful with long use, but simply beautiful things take up too much space.
I may go hunting in the as-of-yet unseen piles of stuff that used to be in my little house. To see those boxes, packed and marked and moved and stacked by so many kind hands, will surely move me to tears. Are the tears worth getting my hands on the handy-dandy propane stove in its handy-dandy carrying case?
Sure. Crying never killed anybody, and the weather in the almost-wilderness will be rainy for the first few days. Hot cocoa for breakfast is totally worth making the first trip to the created-wilderness of those piles of stuff in storage.
Material possessions only matter as much as they hold meaning. The meaningless matter goes to Goodwill.
What I find behind Storage Unit Door Number Whatever might all be meaningless, too, after eight months in the dark. I’ve done well without so far, but I do miss some comforts and graces that living amongst a collection–forks, paintings, glassware, rocks, sticks, books–carefully curated over my lifetime, brought to the places I’ve lived before.
Someday, we’ll land where my things may become our things. What I’ve brought into the house so far has met with mixed appreciation, but perhaps as a whole, my collection of oddities will feel less odd than they do as individual insertions to the established arrangement. Complimentary to the current, I am confident.
My life now, not completely surrounded and saturated with my family’s and my own useful and beautiful things for the first time, proves that those things are secondary to happiness.
Before a misunderstanding takes hold, let’s talk about beauty.
The Old House, to me, was beautiful, even when everyone else living in it disagreed. The screen door’s sound, crack-boing-clack, and its smell, rusty screen and dust and rain on the hot sidewalk, still cause pangs of joy when I think of them. That door, wood-framed, brass-handle caked with crude oil, hinges greased with the same, became the first thing I understood to be beautiful. The glass in the windows, wavy and never without a few nose-prints from me or the dog, transformed the grass into a rippling sea before I knew what a sea should look like. Even the way the soft brick of the foundation crumbled in the damp of the basement, and the stairs to that basement, dug and poured by someone with very long legs which I would inherit, long legs and basement stairs both…
That tiny, crooked, oddly arranged structure we eventually called The Old House shaped my aesthetics.
All beautiful, like the rock my small person needed to bring home from the landscaping at The Pasta House a few weeks ago. Like the sticks I needed to bring home from Indiana last week. Like the bookshelves that my dad made in wood shop in 1960-something that have always needed to live near where I choose to sleep, and the quilts and pillows that I will carry into the almost-wilderness to make the tent seem capable of providing real shelter.
I require less shelter now, less armor made of familiar stuff to call my own and not ours. Please, let it all be ours.
Now, as the trip to the almost-wilderness requires immediate planning and packing, I project needs, then wants. I hope to fulfill both, useful and beautiful: shelter, clothing, food, water, hot cocoa, quilts, pillows, rugs, paint for the tent’s rain fly should the rain pause, yarn to occupy my hands should it not.
The perfect set of open-flameworthy pots and pans are still packed, probably too deeply to bother with during the search for the stove, but I’ve found others in the meantime. Maybe they’re better. The silver service that always comes to the wilderness is polished and ready to hold flowers, and the tablecloth, on the table. The two chairs for the table never went into storage, and I am confident enough that one flute is stored safely away to bring the other, to offer up as a gift.
I play the banjo now, anyway.