Yesterday was an arduous evening. Facing an upgraded level of danger -a level 2 evacuation notice for my home- from the massive wildfires burning through our county and steadily approaching the small town I live in, I finally decided the time had come to pack up some belongings from my house in the event I’m forced to abandon my home for safety.
Abandon is a sobering word and it’s a sobering process. The possibility of leaving my home because of fire danger was real, but what became even more real to me was going through all my possessions and choosing which of them I would also leave behind and possibly never return to.
verb \ ə-ˈban-dən\
: to leave and never return to (someone who needs protection or help)
: to leave and never return to (something)
: to leave (a place) because of danger
First things first, I packed up the few items my boys requested, two PlayStations, a dozen games and one favorite fuzzy blanket. After these fires pass I’m going to have to come to terms with the fact that my kids’ most cherished possessions are video games, but in the words of a good friend, “Don’t waste energy trying to stop that train, boys love the video games, they just do”. I trust the advice, no energy wasted there.
The remainder of the evening was spent assessing and packing my own cherished possessions and this was a much more difficult process. Important documents are a given, but after that? Pictures first and you take them all. So many moments captured in time, so many smiles, so much laughter, so much love hidden behind the scenes. You can’t help becoming misty eyed as you remove portraits from walls and pack them in boxes, can’t help but shake your head sadly as you walk 20 years of memories out the door of the home where many of them occurred.
Then the truly difficult work began, the decisions. Out of a lifetime of accumulations of import, which would I take, which would I abandon. What was truly important to me, what were my most cherished possessions? And maybe equally important, what weren’t, what was I willing to leave behind? By the end of the night I knew. It was amazing how few items it amounted to. Only four things, my writing, my books, my stones and the gifts I’ve received from the people that mean the most to me. Sadly I couldn’t take them all.
I packed up every bit my writing, wondering as I did about how many hours of love and labor was represented in all those notebooks full of my hand written words. I couldn’t begin to tell you, but it occurred to me that if I died tomorrow you could reconstruct multiple lives – not just my own- with the plethora of words I’d left behind. As I walked them out the door I knew as surely as I ever have that those lives still needed to be shared. That they were as important as any life of living flesh and that I had much work in front of me to make sure this happened.
Setting about through the house, I collected the stones I would take with me. Tigers eye and rose quarts, a piece or two of fluorite, all the stones my sister wire wrapped for me – garnet and lapis and citrine, and my amethyst cathedral, a gift from my aunts. I left many stones, protection pieces that would serve a better purpose right where they were in my house. I collected the few cherished gifts, chosen with care, given with love by those few people I consider to be my dearest friends in the world. Handling those items, I experienced a poignant moment of thankfulness to have such beautiful people in my life. Their presence and support meaning more than all the possessions combined.
There was never any way I was going to be able to take all my books, I have a small library. So once again, I was forced to choose, choose the most treasured pieces out of my most treasured possessions. I suspect a person would understand a lot about me by looking at the few books I chose to save. I suspect I could understand a lot about myself if I did the same. There in those boxes were the first book I remember falling in love with (taped together I’ve read it so many times), the first book that made me open my eyes and look at the world in a different way, the books written and signed by people I call friends, the books chosen and given to me as gifts by other dear friends, and the books that have imparted the bulk of my unique knowledge base.
Looking back at those still full shelves, at all the books I had to give up on, at all the stories I had to leave behind, I saw so much knowledge, so many other lifetimes of labor and love, so much of humanity bound in words on printed pages. My heart broke for those words, for not being able to choose them all, for abandoning them…
…but as I turned and looked at what I chose to take with me, I realized it was okay. This small pile of possessions in front of me were the ones I needed, the ones that meant the most, the ones I would take with me and never leave behind.
They were enough.