Our barn caught on fire ; a lot of the content was destroyed. Now we are heaving out piles of things that are melted, charred or torched. If they were just material items, this would be so very simple.
But many of these items are more than just “things”. The toy box held our son’s laughter as a child; the pine table was the place we joined everyone together over dinner; the golf clubs were the promise of a future hobby; the Christmas tree and lights were all the holidays we have shared together as a family; saddles, bridle and tack were remnants of summer days spent riding dusty back roads.
But fire is not sentimental and it ravaged all those memories and promises. Heaving everything into a huge pile, we now toss out all the debris that linked us to the past and hinders us from moving on.
Then, like a fever, this urge to cleanse has permeated all the physical and psychological corners of our lives. Suddenly, closets and shelves are divested of clutter that has piled up over the last 30 years. Even books, my particular sacred cow, are no longer safe from scrutiny. Clothes, shoes, knicknacks, items gifted and re-gifted, ancient decorations, souvenirs of distant places – all once treasured and now relegated to dark, dusty recesses – are headed for the dumpster.
In fact, it’s getting to the point that if my husband stops moving for very long, I might decide he is scrap and heave him onto the pile.
Reports, background references, articles, research – my filing cabinets have been filled to capacity with paper that has not been touched in years. But today most of their hanging folders swing empty, because three bins of documents went out, along with all of the hours and hours of work that went into their preparation or review. Those projects, that work – is Done. Gone. Finished. Letting go of that paper was like letting go of the the past.
Somehow, subconsciously it seemed that if I held onto the material things of the past, I could hold onto all of the good memories and emotions that went along with them. Perhaps even retain my youth, my son as a wee child, my dreams for the future.
But it wasn’t true. My memories are an intrinsic part of who I am today. I am not the clutter, junk and files that clog up my house; I am the result of my experiences. I can throw out the material representations of my past; but I will forever retain the accumulated essence of all that I have become.
As file after file hit the recycling bin I found myself salvaging large, black, fold-back clips. Out of all the things I kept, from all the hours of research and days of writing final reports – all tedious tomes of recommendations and observations – the only items that seemed worthwhile keeping were the paper clips.
Research, reports and recommendations stale date very quickly. Paper clips on the other hand, are useful forever.