Saturday, September 22, 2012

What is Essential is Invisible to the Eye

Today I smell like dirt and sweaty-ness and deliberation. My feet hurt from standing too long looking at shades of my childhood spread out on tables in my aunt's new home while my lungs cough up dust from brown-filmed boxes kept in basements too long.

My sisters and I are wrapping up the final stages of the Great Dividing of Things, a summer's worth of sorting and selecting from my mother, grandmother and aunt's possessions that will come to reside in our own homes. The Great Dividing has been intense, not because we have fought or wrung our hands over these things. In contrast, we three have managed to be loving and thoughtful of each other in our system, only wincing once or twice at losing a much-loved item to another.

No, the Great Dividing has been intense because we are women who carry so much of who we knew in the things we can touch and feel. Grandma's glassware reminds me of strawberries and cream breakfasts on early morning wakings in her beautiful home. My mother's shotgun, a favorite bronze statue, the bold charcoal strokes of a favorite auntie's talented hand: all comfortable reminders of a home that will no longer be here for us in its present form. Often simple things become exceptionally beautiful for the story behind it...a sweet Victorian biscuit holder becomes even more cool knowing that Dad and Aunt Pat bought it while in Europe together and a salt and pepper shaker set becomes more valuable when it was brought from the Old World by people we never knew but who in some way relate to our present being. It's a struggle not to make everything meaningful, to not drag too much forward for the sake of holding on to people who have left too soon and to places that are no longer your own.

And through this process, I have begun to realize just how important this essential nature of things is for me. A week ago I began to re-read a copy of The Bone People, underlined and dog-eared by my 20-something self that reminded me of the sometimes-lost but fundamentally strong woman I had been then. I wear Mala beads made by my gorgeous friend Molly and am soothed by their smoothness and her power during a stressful meeting. I have my own ritual of rereading a new copy of my favorite book before I give it to a friend just to imprint my own feelings, energy and intention in its pages.  There are things that are in every way precious to me because of the thought or intention with which they were created or loved or given to me. In rough times, these are the glue, the touchstones, the cairns on the journey.

It's the feel, the smell, the thought, the history of person's imprint on an object that makes it special. It's holding something that's been held by the person you love. It's the essence of the person connected to you peering through, the heartstrings that it tugs, the feeling of knowing yourself there that it provides.

Rifling through my closet, I reached back to find an old sweater of my mother's that I'd brought home after she died. She'd been gone for over a year but her warm, achingly familiar scent still remained mixed in the soft fibers as I buried my nose deep and drew in her memory. "Mijo!" I called to David, "come here". Without a word, I held out the sweater for him to smell. Drawing back, eyes shining and face flooded with memories, he smiled and said "Grandma Suz." Oh, sweet boy, that we can hold on to that, that we can, that we can, that we can.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written,as always! You are so poetic...your words sing to me.