Sunday, November 14, 2010


Wild Garden (Private collection)
There is a story about some sacred pilgrims.  These Pilgrims do not carry food or supplies on their journey.  Instead they rely on the charity of those they meet.
Part of the discipline of being a pilgrim is to trust that they will be provided for, and they beg for their daily food.  They have begging bowls specially made.  These bowls are broken after being used, because the bowls are now sacred and to use them for every day would defile them.

The bowls are specially made, as I said.  The potter knows that his/her work will be made only to be destroyed.

I have to tell you I read this with great dismay!  As an artist, such ideas fill me with horror! to watch something with all that work and care in it being destroyed  is painful!   I have the same feeling about the beautiful sand paintings done by Native American or Buddhists that have to be destroyed when the ceremony is finished.  It hurts!

But the book explains that the potters don't think of it as making something to be destroyed, they think of it as making something to be sacred.

Things as sacred.

When I was a child, I was taught that it was wrong to value 'things'.  It made you materialistic.  'Things', I was taught,  could never be sacred.  But I was supposed to take Very Good care of my bike and my books and my clothes and my toys. 

Now, I am the only daughter of the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter of the oldest daughter in a family that hands down things Matralineally. 
When Mother died,  I got all her books and silverware. 
I fought very hard Not to get her dishes or furniture. 
I was also given quite a few boxes of other 'things', some that she had gotten from her mother or her mother's mother.   Family photos (not labeled in many cases so I have no idea who these people are), family diaries (again, I have never heard of some of these folks), watches that don't run, jewelry made from human hair (it itches!) and the ever-popular 'unidentified objects'.

I have one box I packed up in 1979 that has not been unpacked since.  There have been about seven moves and it has travelled along happily with everything else. 
So while I have tried to avoid having things that are sacred to me, I ended up carting around things that were sacred to someone else.

Actually, I have not told the truth. 

It is not one box. 
It is many boxes. 

I have a whole back room full of 'things' that are in boxes.  And they too have not been unpacked for 20 years.  

There are things from both grandmothers, and long lost relates I never met. 
There are things that my first-grade teacher warned me "someday you will want this", so I kept them. 
There is every report card I ever got, plus a complete collection of all my detention slips. 
And there are lots of things that are not in boxes taking up room in my house.

The other night, I was listening to someone talking about a disaster that happened to them, their house burnt down or something horrible like that.  She was saying how terrible it was to lose everything you own.  She said "Just imagine what it would be like if everything you had was destroyed." 

For a brief moment, I thought about it. 

To my surprise, the first emotion was relief. 

Just imagine, not to be burdened with all those 'things' any more!  Now, I am not trying to minimize how awful it was for that person to lose everything.  It must have been devistating.  I am only reporting my own twisted reactions to an imagined scenario.

Following that lead, I realized that there are a few things I do like, that do hold a special place in my heart.  But all of those things are packed away, because I don't have room for them.  

I have come to the conclusion that it is OK to hold some things dear, but if you have ten thousand things, then the things that you do hold dear get lost.

So I have made a decision:
I will tackle that back room full of boxes. 
I will send things off to relatives that will value them. 
And I will throw lots of stuff out. 
And I will never packrat again.


Check with me next summer.

1 comment:

  1. LOL I was hoping you'd come to that conclusion. I've been doing that little by little and just saving the things that are very dear to me - it's very freeing. AND they have space to be displayed. And don't forget that those old pictures and diaries of relatives you don't even know go for big bucks now for altered art. So when you think of throwing out - think of trying to sell first. Good luck!