Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

At the Drop of a Hat

"Vienna?" repeated Touie wonderingly, for she had never left England. It was now November; winter was coming on; little Mary was beginning to walk, as long as you held her sash.

"When do we leave?"
"Immediately," replied Arthur.
And Touie- bless her- merely rose from her needlework and murmured,
"then I must be quick."
-From the novel 'Arthur and George,' by Julian Barnes.

Envision it, for a moment. Your significant other comes home one windblown evening with grand and magnificent plans for the future- the immediate future, no less- and tells you to prepare for moving to another country.
You have no time to be bewildered or ask any questions. You have hours, minutes, even, to pack your entire life into some boxes and forge ahead to a new place. It is awfully exciting.
The passage delivered above, that of Touie putting aside her needlework without a word of complaint, is in my mind the single most romantic scene ever put on paper.
It stopped me cold when I read it first, for its pureness, sincerity and candour.
Practically speaking, however, how many of us could truthfully say we could pack up our lives at a moment's notice?
Even our 'emergency' lists are as long as our arm- we are all aware of those lists some of us create in case of fire or other necessary evacuation: what would we reach for if we had to leave our homes in haste? I recall making one of those lists a couple of years ago during a dreadful wildfire season. I was alarmed to find that my list was as long as my arm with no end in sight and as a result not helpful in the slightest. I am in no doubt that, had we been forced to get out quickly, I would not have known where to find that sentimental Christmas stocking or that precious birthday card from years back or that meaningful photograph.
I would be delighted to live in such a way that we could go anywhere at the drop of a hat.
Gigantic televisions, wall to wall speaker systems, fragile vases that cannot be so much as breathed on: they are all well and good to show off to guests but in their own way, they inhibit possibilities. Possessions, for their part, cause untold worry that we might not even be conscious of.
That is one of the reasons we are now scanning and shredding our important papers. They stretch far back into the past: electricity bills, credit card statements, college acceptance forms and the like, they are too troublesome to carry now that we have limited space. It seems that in each place we have lived there has been a storage hiding-hole of some kind. We used to have a basement at one point, and then a garage, and we have always had more closets than we knew what to do with. What a headache that caused in the long term: we had abundant space to hide our knick knacks, papers, extra shoes, clocks and superfluous kitchen implements.
Now, you see, we have nowhere to hide and that has saved us.
We are literally tripping over papers every day and our only solution is to scan them, fifty pages a day, and then take a hearty pleasure in destroying them. I can honestly attest that having no nook or cranny in this apartment has been our salvation.
I can remember many times we would miss something we were certain was buried in our house but could not be located in the jumble. The answer? To buy the same item once more (and consequently find the old one upon returning from the store.) That will never happen to us again. Even if our next apartment should have more closets than can be counted, we will not have anything to put into them. There are no dark, cobweb corners; no mysterious boxes of artifacts; no corner filled with nameless items. We know where everything is. We are acting on getting rid of most of it but at least we know where and what it is.
I am eager for the day when everything that matters to us can be bundled into one room, and we are ready for our next adventure. Or, simply ready for a clutter-free house.

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