My house sold. My business is officially closed. My belongings are going on the auction block.
About the time of first snow, I’ll head south of the border, down Mexico way.
I am currently filling the gap between leaving my house and the first frozen flakes of impending winter with sorting and packing. If I didn’t have scads of business materials and tools and equipment, and if I didn’t have 4,500 books and if every wall in my house were not a gallery, the job would be simple.
Bob, my auctioneer, strongly suggested that I leave for a week, hand over the keys to the house, and when I returned, everything would be boxed and ready to go. He assured me I would never miss a thing. He is probably right.
But I plan to drive my cargo van, my only vehicle. That means I can take whatever I can make fit. In the beginning, I blithely sailed through my house marking this and that to make the trip with me — a microcosm of my present life, totally disregarding volume and weight. Each day, my van, she shrinks.
When I moved from Seattle to Harlem, from a metropolitan area to a Third World country, eastern Montana, I made several trips to Costco and other Big Boxes and loaded up with everything I could imagine I might possibly need and be unable to buy within a hundred-mile radius of my new home. Plus, I brought most of my possessions, a process of several tedious trips.
What I seem to forget is that I am moving to Mazatlan, an international port for centuries before American and Canadian tourists “discovered” it. A real city, with both modern stores and traditional markets.
While Bob’s suggestion sounds better each day, I’m stubborn. I have pared down to a few kitchen tools, some bathroom supplies, bedding and personal items. That sounds perfect. Or, it would be if I could remember when I pack a box that I won’t need 42 towels. Just pack six towels, something to get started. Right?
But I have to do it the hard way. For example, one day I packed a large tote with spices. Well, I grew and dried most of them myself — except for those things which do not grow here and probably originated from Mexico in the first place. Most of my spices inhabit delightful glass containers. And I must take this spice which I use for pickles is impossible to find on the grocery shelf in Harlem. That spice I bought in India; I haven’t used it yet, but I will. Pack. Re-think. Re-pack.
The following day I tackled my collection of teas. Teas from China, some from India, others from Britain by way of India, Malaysia and China; exotic and special teas. I filled another sizable box.
That night I lay awake, thinking. Why, Sweetheart, are you taking stuff you can buy fresh at the market in Mazatlan, silly woman? And let’s talk about your teas. You packed teas you don’t ever drink. Why not take only what you use, only what you envision using in your new life? Sometimes I hate that night voice.
Why not indeed! So this morning I opened the spice tote and condensed it by half. Then I tackled the teas. I have three, maybe four, favorites. They easily fit into the spice tote. Along with dish towels and miscellaneous kitchen items. Do you know anyone else who owns 34 wooden spoons? Do you realize how hard it is to pick four favorite, most-useful spoons and shove the other 30 into a drawer, out of mind.
Oh, my rusty iron pelican. I love my iron pelican. How can I leave her behind? My collection of Japanese green glass fishing floats? Every piece of art, painting or pottery, has a story. I feel as if I am abandoning children. Ah, books. My 4,500 beloved books. Rocks. Teapots. Ceramic fish.
Every day, as I wander from room to room, my eye alights on treasure. Oh, I must take that. I look at the stack I’ve already boxed, harden my heart, and let it go.
I’m an artist. When I find my new home, I’ll fill it with delight, with beauty, with love, with stuff. I always do. In my new country, I won’t want just another version of my life and surroundings here. And isn’t there a law about nature and a vacuum? So I remind myself each day, let it go.
In my new home, I’ll take my time, create a new me in my new surroundings. And possibly I’ll buy a new wooden spoon. Or two. Hand carved by a local artisan.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little diffeent. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)