As I have mentioned before, my life has been somewhat nomadic. My family moved many times during my childhood, and as an adult I continued that tradition. This Saturday, having found a little apartment in a small town, I'm doing it again.
With every move comes a challenge. Stairs, narrow halls, remote locations at the end of mud-pit "driveways", crowded city blocks with no place to park the moving truck, heat, rain, snow, and the occasional moving crew that has to be gently taught how to do its job. The challenge this time: space.
I am about to take up residence in what I think is the smallest space I have ever lived in with my own things (which leaves out several months in a Hollywood furnished studio memorable for its window blocked by a living wall of bamboo plants). According to my calculations, my new nest is about 342 square feet. And there are stairs. Narrow stairs. Only one flight, but still, narrow.
Downstate an hour or so, my belongings fill a 10'x10' storage unit almost to the ceiling. Clearly, everything there will not fit in the apartment.
It would be nice to sell lots of things. But that's neither simple as posting a picture, nor as swift as setting up a table in the yard (no yard!) and raking in the cash. The real need is this: something's gotta give. Which means someone's gotta give it up, and give it away.
So much of what I have accumulated is for a life I don't have, and have not had for decades. What I mean by give it up is release the attachment to an old dream, and to other peoples' dreams, of what and how my life should be. That's hard, almost. But I am going to out myself: it's only logistically hard. The thought of having less, fewer, one or two rather than many – that thought makes my soul sing. Why have twelve stem-glasses for red wine, when I drink my wine from a little Arco glass one step removed from a jam jar (and don't snort at me. I learned it in France)? Do I need six or seven fat books on jazz history, and eight books on dog training when I know there is only one I might use again? Or boxes of sheet music in the classical vocal repertoire that I will most assuredly never sing? Even when I keep the pieces my grand dad and my mom studied, that leaves a big pile to release. Can you say "church rummage sale"? Can I?
The hard part is the sorting, because of time limitations and of the degree to which the enchantments of sentiment and fear cut into that limited time. Oh, but so and so gave me that. And uh-oh, what if I need this someday and can't afford to get another one, or they don't even make it anymore? Lord, spare me from myself.
So, please lift a glass to my new home, to my 342 square feet of light-filled, cross-ventilating, clean and quiet apartment sweetness. If you need a glass to lift, let me know. I have many.
And if you feel like lifting a box on Saturday, hello and thank you.
And please go here to see more of Jeanne Illenye's lovely work.