Dismantling, moving on, leaving…

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, disoriented and somewhat surprised that I was in my bed rather than out on the lawn surrounded by piles of my possessions. You see, there was a lingering image, much like a fading black and white photograph, of us standing proudly in front of a mountain of stuff stacked higgledy-piggledy. All of a sudden memory flashbacked to a photo with deckle edges, of Mother and Father, arm in arm, standing beside the family DKW. Father had rested his  possessive hand on the hood of the car. My dream photograph had that same quality – of pride of possession.

A good friend has been recently moving her worldly possessions from a house she shared with her mother into her newly bought home. Not only had she to move thirty years worth of art production, archived so carefully, but also to dismantle her Mother’s estate, disperse her goods among siblings, clear out the house and sell it off. Her Mother had died, leaving behind a lifetime of memories and accumulations. It has been a Protean physical and emotional labour for my friend to move on. And still her work continues.  Will she come out at the other end of this work a new butterfly out of its crysalis? I like to think so.

I think back on the difficult relationship I have had with stuff most of my life. This may be rooted, perhaps, in having to leave a life and all of its trappings behind at the age of ten. There a sudden truth was revealed – stuff is stuff, necessary but also an impediment, much of it superfluous and yet so much of how we position our worth in society depends on this collection. And at the end of a life, it is left behind to be dispersed. No more important really than the leaves we rake together into a pile at the end of Fall.

Maybe this attitude explains my penchant for giving things away if people indicate they are partial to them. I remember a student back in 1983 who expressed shock and surprise after I gave her a drawing of mine she was especially interested in. It was a drawing into which I had invested heart and soul in the doing and making of. This student was not one of my favourite ones. She was difficult, obstructive and unco-operative in class. Yet she had a special spark and curiosity, a lust for living. She constantly asked pointed questions. She asked the right questions about the drawing and thus it needed to go to her. She may or may not still have it. That is not important.  The drawing served its purpose for both of us, for me in the making and for her, in the contemplation of it.

I am sitting here, sipping the morning cup, thinking of how to divest myself of this mountain of stuff. I have to clear house, and move on to leave space for further experiences. The material weighs me down.

9 Responses to “Dismantling, moving on, leaving…”

  1. Nita Says:

    I don’t know whether you are moving…but surburban, you have a way of drawing people into your world. Right from the first sentence I was hooked.

  2. suburbanlife Says:

    Nita – we are not moving, but I’ve just had another birthday, more stuff came into our lives and I feel weighted down. Thanks for your comment. G

  3. citrus Says:

    Than you, kindred spirit!


  4. ybonesy Says:

    This piece, although it is short, is packed with so much. I love that you gave the drawing to this not favorite student of yours. Yes, it seemed to have served its purpose. And now, contemplating all your stuff. Makes me think, too, of all mine.

  5. suburbanlife Says:

    Roger – well, mustn’t one be prepared to move along at any time? G

    ybonesy – this must be a time of year when one contemplates this sort of stuff, maybe a part of the natural cycle? Thanks for your comment. G

  6. mariacristina Says:


    I learned a new word – deckle. Thanks for that! It’s interesting how the changing of the seasons and the dried autumn leaves led you to think of shedding your possessions. I had a similar idea in a list I wrote today.

    When you wrote about giving away items from your collection I thought about how it’s good for the soul to practice that kind of generosity, knowing we aren’t here forever. Like ybonesy, I like how you gave your drawing to a student who wasn’t your favorite person. Maybe she ended up being more cooperative down the road due to your kindness.

    Nice work!

  7. Deborah Barlow Says:

    Having just faced the daunting task of dealing with my mother’s belongings–and she was organized enough to have boxes of things with each of our names on them–I too am overwhelmed by all of these objects that surround me. We create worlds where we hand pick every object around us, but when we’re gone, most of those items don’t mean much to anyone else. I’m all for divesting while we still can, gifting where interest is shown, willingly letting these objects come into our lives and then leave, all of it easy and with a graceful flow.

  8. Enrique Says:

    So you’re moving and divesting your belongings. Good luck in your new home, G.

  9. suburbanlife Says:

    Christine – your list poem was terrific! Must be the time of year when we’re gearing up to the suspended pregnancy of winter, and all that it entails – incubation of ideas and feelings, a subterranean burgeoning to be given new spring outburst, soon, soon. G

    Deborah – I have been thinking of you, it has been a season for many of us to work through and let go, let pass a part of our experience. Things are just symbols of this process. I hope you are well! G

    Enrique – Thank you!, but we are staying put, not moving, but hoping to clear space anyway for the next phase, whatever it may be. G

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