By sundown this evening, I will have finished packing (as you can see above, some things pack themselves). The U-Haul truck is reserved for Wednesday, and if all goes well, Mrs. Peel and I should be elsewhere and ready to relax by teatime. I have moved a lot of times, packing, unpacking. The first task is collecting boxes. The last time I moved, I got rid of the used ones, because I wouldn't need them again. How endearingly optimistic! Then, all I have to do is fill them, number each box, and keep a list of what is in it. I was well into the high double digits a few days ago when I dissolved in tears over how much stuff was left to pack. Not, mind you, because I was tired of packing, but because I am not exactly travelin' light.
Shortly after I came back to the city in 2006, a friend asked me for moving tips. I had one: get rid of stuff. I told her that my only regret was that I had brought so much with me that I could have sold or given away before the move. And yet, I do not take my own advice.
Not that I never cull my possessions. I do, often. Something shifts in my mind, and I can sort and discard quickly and efficiently. But if that mental shift doesn't happen, every decision takes a long time. Of course, sometimes I wish later that I had kept something, usually a book. It has been shocking to learn that there are books I used to own that even the much-vaunted New York Public Library apparently doesn't.
When Hurricane Irene was spiralling toward New York City, threatening (according to local media) to roar over the boroughs and destroy us, New Yorkers were encouraged to gather their most important items into "go bags", so as to be ready to evacuate if necessary. I came up with three bags full, to be used depending on whether I was on foot, on public transportation, or in my car.
1. Walking list: Mrs. Peel (cat) in her carrier.
2. Public transportation list: Cat in carrier hanging from one shoulder. Bible, Riverside Shakespeare, current journal in a bag on the other. My little-girl charm bracelet on wrist.
3. Beat-up Toyota list: All of the preceding, plus all my diaries and dream journals, and Greenie, the rescued corn plant.
I actually live on a big hill, so I did not need that bag, but the thought process was interesting. What mattered to me? Mrs. Peel, plus stories. Nothing else.
Even though there has been no yard sale, and I only have time to pack and move, and must sort things out later, it's still basically Mrs. Peel, plus stories. The stories of all my books and bookshelves. The lineage of my piano. The mystery of the painting that has been hanging above it. My wicker chair has a great little tale to tell. Greenie has a ballad. Everything speaks. Once I have settled into a new place this fall, I will be glad to have these familiar things around me in a new setting. As a priest I knew used to say, "Period. Paragraph. Turn the page."