Wednesday, March 17, 2010



There's water running through our town today. We've had so much rain and snow this winter that the creeks are not only full, but in motion. Water tumbles over river rock, splashing, even, along the banks. This may not seem like a lot if you're living in, say, Mississippi, but in the high desert, moving water is quite extraordinary. When I was considering moving to Prescott, I drove around town and stood beside the creeks and watched the water. In North Carolina, we had moving water all over the place. In Phoenix, water dried before it hit the ground. I couldn't live someplace with no water anymore. 

We've been in a drought for many years. The creeks have dried to sand. I'd walk over the creeks that used to bubble and see the rocks, the trash, the aluminum, that accumulated over the years of far less rainfall than we need. This winter, we've had water. The ground outside my house is still so saturated my feet sink into it. There are puddles and pools of standing water. And the creeks are talking, dancing, splashing through town, washing the detritus of the riverbeds away.

My husband's mother is cleaning out her house. She's going through her late husband's things and laying them out in the backyard for the family to pick through. Packs of golf balls. Weights. Camping equipment. Books. Score cards. Post cards. Photographs where no one can identify the people. She is clearing out a life that does not exist anymore. Perhaps she is trying to create meaning. Why did he save this piece of paper? What is the significance of that note? Why are there thirty pairs of socks? Questions she can't answer.

I come from a long, proud line of hoarders. My grandmother had boxes of clothes under the beds that had rotted with the tags on. Our dining room in my childhood home was devoted to my mother's stuff. Today, she has a dedicated room for boxes filled with ... stuff. Granted, she was recently audited by the IRS and she had all the documents she needed to prove she was right (go, Mom!) So, take that purging-people! :-) Perhaps you know the phrase, "You never know when you might need..." It's a default thought for me.

I love stuff. I love attaching meaning to things. I think about who has touched the things in my house. Where they came from. What their stories are. Objects speak to me. Lots of my stories come from objects. Things that we have a tendency toward easily become out of balance. What can give benefit can also be a problem. You may remember my Great Purge of '09. Bags upon bags upon bags upon bags of stuff. So, self, your tendency is? Yes! Acquire too much stuff. Antidote? Keep stuff moving through like water.

This spring break, I have gone back through my closets and taken four more bags to Goodwill. Yes, only four this time, compared to a number-that-shall-not-be-named last summer. I'm doing much better. These bags were stuffed with clothes that I should have purged last time but somehow thought I might still become the woman who could wear that dress, or that top, or those shoes. You know the woman. I bet you have one of your own in your brain. 

Do I need to put a post-it note in my closet? 

Laraine. My darling, 
You are not 5'9". You are not, nor will you ever be again, 125 pounds. 
You are not, nor will you ever be again, 25 years old.
You do not have long, thick, flowing hair (so stop buying the headbands!) 
You cannot pull off strapless. Ever. 
Long flowy skirts make you look shorter than you are. 
Stop the madness. 
V-necks work. Structured jackets work. Wide leg pants work. Knee-length skirts work. 
Layering is your friend. Shaped cardigans work. 
Funky scarves work (ha! The true one-size-fits-all item!) 
Laraine. My darling. Be real.
Love ya!

My husband's mother touches her husband's objects as she lets them go. They have stories for her. They have questions for her. I think of what people who clean out my life will find. What questions will they have? What stories? And I feel a responsibility to carry in my house, which is an extension of myself, only what is serving me now. Letting go of what used to serve me doesn't diminish what role those things have played in my life. Space, contrary to what I'd always believed, feels good.

I block my own flow. I create my own stagnation, stickiness, and mud. And so I am also the one who can move things through, keep the water moving, keep everything fluid and soft. 

This spring, with water once again gurgling through town, is the perfect time to practice movement, letting go, and making room.
Granite Creek, Prescott, AZ

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