I’m about to leave for a long-awaited trip to Lake Superior. We’ll take the kayaks, a lovely new tent & good camping gear (the best wedding presents ever); the bikes, some tomatoes from the garden since the plants are now overflowing, books, cameras, and my own cluttered mind, in hopes that the latter can be washed clear in the cold cold waters of the Great Lake.
It’s like jumping off a cliff.
I think about what I’ll come home to with my clearer mind – a ‘before-and-after’ question.
I look around now and I see bags and clothes and recyclables, a painting that needs re-framing, trim for the interior windows on a chair, fireworks left over from Dom’s birthday, a set of bongos, three bats of roxl insulation, a huge bag of birdseed, hats and coats and bags – and that’s just the obvious layer. Add a psychological one which in part will explain my mental clutter: each item is connected to an ongoing narrative – my gardening shirt from yesterday, which I will wear this evening while mowing the lawn; cardboard recyclables from food we’ve consumed, which we are hoarding for future woodfires; the painting I gave to Grant the first Christmas after we met of a frog (why a frog?) under a tree; the pile of trim made from cherry wood which was a posthumous gift from Grant’s highschool shop teacher; and on it goes. Please note- the last two sentences are as unnecessarily long as our house is unnecessarily full of stuff.
None of these things are simple – some carry stories heavy with complexity – the roughly oval, green-striped rock, for example, which we brought back from Ireland. In my mind it goes with a picture of Grant’s dad who is walking alone toward the ocean on Nicholson’s point, his coat billowing in the coastal onshore wind. The entire family was on this trip back to find Nicholson roots in the North of Ireland, near Kilkeel and the Mournes. We had a poignant, rich time that was full of laughter and discovery, and two months after we returned, my Father-in-law died suddenly from a heart attack.
For me, the whole story of Bob is embedded in that rock, which nestles against another from Russia, and another from Dunaad in Scotland, and many many others, all holding connection to place – the French River, where we camped with my parents 8 years ago; black basalt from the shore (above); a piece of rubble from the great wall of China. They rest together in a big wooden salad bowl on legs (another great wedding present), which likely will never be used for salad.
We’ve inherited furniture and plants – desks from McMeekin’s; a dresser that once belonged to my great-grandfather Keebler, who built the Circle Bar factory where my studio is; two christmas cacti-one from Grant’s maternal grandmother, and another from the paternal. Both those ladies come with stories that could fill volumes.
If I close my eyes, I can hear all the tales from all these things, this house, these posts & beams- singing softly into the room – each with its own resonance and frequency. It’s very very rich.
It can also be deafening.
Note from 2016: I’ll have to do this trip on my own someday. We didn’t make it to Superior, and the marriage was over by the next summer. My life is MUCH less cluttered, now.