Things Change, People Die

We know this…Most of us can name things and people that we’ve lost over the course of our lives. I certainly can. However, it really came home to me (again) yesterday when I was continuing with sorting and discarding “stuff.” There is a normal accumulation of things that we do as humans. In fact Stephanie Vogt in her book, A Year to Clear, says that clearing our stuff is a lifelong process. We can count on accumulating and releasing things ad infinitum. However, I believe that I would feel better if I had that sense of spaciousness that she offers in her book. I’d like to look out over the landscape of my little cottage and feel more order, beauty and space now or at least a year from now.

Yesterday, I pulled a couple of boxes of old check registers from the closet shelf. I googled how long do I need to keep check registers. One answer was one year followed by other answers that said at least ten years or perhaps five years. So I decided on seven years. I would hold onto these for seven years. One bit of logic from the google exploration was that they take up so little space so it would be fine to hold onto them forever. My thinking is that it would be one less thing for my family to have to deal with when my time comes.

I started with registers from 2009. The Bank of America branch that I was with in 2009, had dissolved, closed and left us without a B of A locally. So I transferred my account to another local bank. The registers were bound by circular wires. I removed them from the wires and shredded the papers. As I did so, I read who the checks were paid to…I decided to list the people and the shops, cafes or businesses that no longer existed. I came up with at least forty (40) businesses and/or people who were no longer here. The businesses had closed and the people had either died or moved away. It sort of shocked me to realize this. I frequented many of the businesses more than once in 2009. And these people who passed or moved, there were varying degrees of connection to them.

So you adjust, adapt to these losses or changes or find a way to get the need that was once met by them in another way. And sometimes, you just miss them. A sort of nostalgia surrounds them. Like New Sammy’s restaurant in Talent, Oregon near Ashland. Before I had ever been there, I had heard that it was truly a gourmet restaurant with the highest standards. And that the chef was a woman with a Ph.D. who turned to a career in cooking par excellence. That her husband was a wine connoisseur,  a sommelier, who matched the perfect wine with any dessert and entrée. And to have the fullest experience, it was wise to allow his recommended pairings.

I put off going there because I didn’t have anyone to go with, the waiting list was three months out, it was expensive. Then, one day, I was in Ashland and happened to run into this handsome young man that I had met casually in Mount Shasta where we both lived. In the course of our casual conversation, he told me that he was going to New Sammy’s for lunch! I said “I’ve always wanted to go there.” He invited me to meet him there in half-an-hour. I was a believer in serendipities and spontaneity so I met him there. I had what I would say was the best dining experience of my entire life! I agreed to the full meal experience with a most delicious risotto that sat in a broth that I spooned into my mouth until the plate was almost dry. I don’t remember the wine that her husband paired with this dish, but I do remember the satisfaction, the complementary quality of the wine to the risotto.

Then came the dessert, a heavenly chocolate soufflé also paired with a dessert wine. The complete pleasure that I felt at the end of this meal, comfortable and happy cannot be described in words. Gastronomical delights is the phrase that suddenly popped into my mind.

Gabriel, the young man that I was with…the conversation flowed and there was an ease about the whole experience. He was a regular customer there, so he knew the routine and I felt guided by his expertise. Gabriel had stomach ulcers…and he delighted in fine dining which, at times could exacerbate his condition. Being a gourmand, an appreciator of fine dining, this was a bind for him. Yet he allowed himself this pleasure on occasion. I noticed, in my 2009 check register, a couple of checks made out to him. I could only imagine that it was connected to me repaying him for our shared meal. Did we go together a second time? I can’t quite remember. I know that I went by myself one more time. And I vowed I would go again.

However, since then, the sommelier husband has died and recently, the chef closed their restaurant. I knew that cooking was a love of her life as was her husband.
All of this by looking through check registers. Gabriel has died also. A few years ago, I stopped by a friend’s house to say a brief “Hello” and make a delivery…I often shared cake or pies that I baked with friends. Gabriel was sitting on the front porch talking with this friend. I didn’t want to interrupt, made a brief apologetic hello in his direction and left. Gabriel died a few days later–he crashed his car into a tree late one night.

All of this and more stashed in my memory as I shredded some old check registers. There are so many stories that we carry within us. It’s surprising what is invoked by the act of clearing some clutter. It’s no wonder that we put it off. Stephanie Vogt says that is one reason why clearing clutter is so hard…there are the attachments we have ascribed to things. They conjure up so much. I’m taking it slow.

What are you clearing, releasing, saying farewell to? How’s it going for you?

If I really wanted you to know me…

Somewhere in my writing career, I came across this phrase. It’s one of those great opening lines to get you started writing. And, it begs that you be totally honest. So I’ll start.

If I really wanted you to know me, I would tell you the story about my shopping list. When I go south to Redding or north to Ashland from Mt. Shasta, I design a detailed shopping list. It’s almost like a map. There is an order to the places I’m going to shop and where they are in relationship to each other so I don’t double-back. No wasted time, energy or fuel. Today, it’s Interstate 5 South to Redding. I exit at Lake Boulevard and the first stop is Michael’s, off of Hilltop . I purchase a paint brush and fluid white acrylic paint. Check! Then the next stop is Bed n’Bath to return the shower curtain–it was too white and perfect and easily soiled. Check! I walk down a few aisles to see what’s new.
Today’s list is long so I best be going.

Back to the car, buckle up. Then, “OH NO!, where’s my list?!?!”
Two stops and somehow I’ve lost my list! I sit in my car a few minutes to regroup. I check all of my pockets, the floor of the car, my purse, outside of the car. Nada. I try to mentally refabricate my list. I go back into Bed n’Bath and ask the cashier if anyone had turned in a shopping list. No, they haven’t. I wander up and down the aisles that I had traversed–nothing. I return to the car, depressed, demolished (drama queen style).
“I should have stayed home today and dealt with this stifling grief.”
“Yes, I’m in Grief!” I remind the steering wheel.

I pull the car out of the space and then suddenly pull into another parking place. There is something that is propelling me to go back into the store. I rifle through the garbage behind the checkout counter, trying to be inconspicuous. I had made a return earlier, maybe my list was in the bag with the return. No.

I see a tall, thin man, an employee. I get the sense that I’m supposed to ask him about my list. I was running on raw intuition at this point. As I approach, he’s intercepted by a grandmother and her teenage granddaughter. They need his help to retrieve a carpet off of a high shelf. I follow them across the store, a respectful distance behind. After he’s helped them, I approach him. “I’ve lost my shopping list, I tell him. I’m wondering if anyone turned it in to you.”

“No,” he says almost apologetically.

Then, miraculously, the grandmother turns to me. “I found your list,” she said. “It looked too precious to throw away. I gave it to a tall saleswoman.”

“That would be Shoshana,” the tall thin salesman says.

He pages her. She comes out saying “I put it down somewhere. I’m not sure where I put it.”

Despondently, I walk towards the exit. Less than a minute later, the tall thin salesman is flagging me down with my list in his hand.

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So now you know a few things about me from this little story.
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If you really wanted me to know you, what story would you tell?

Clean the House!

I hadn’t thoroughly cleaned the house for two months. Then, I finally cleaned it because company was coming.  Yesterday I cleaned the house for myself.  I stepped away from the canvas, from the computer, the writing journal and dived into cleaning starting with the dreaded tile in the bathroom.  It took hours. Afterwards, I felt an immediate reward. The tile was refreshed and looked beautiful.  As I sit down to the computer today, I feel lighter and loved by my efforts at order and cleanliness.

When things aren’t flowing, cleaning can somehow change things up.  Why is that?  Perhaps, when I’m stuck, cleaning the house gives me a feeling of mastery.  When nothing else makes sense, when there is no flow, cleaning the house seems like a brilliant option.  It sort of gives me a new start, if not a fresh perspective.  Life is a weaving together of strands and fragments.  Cleaning is something I can rely on that supports whatever else is happening personally and in the larger world.

It’s not that this is my first go to when I don’t know what direction to go in.  Yet, it is strange how this seems to make a difference.  It can redirect my thinking and uplift
my spirit as it produces a very reliable product.  A clean house!

After I finish cleaning, I want the effort to be appreciated not only by me.  I might invite some friends over for brunch.

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The character, Monica, in the long-running popular television series, Friends, has an obsessive compulsive quality to her need to clean.