Garage Archaeology

Things I’d save from a fire.

After an hour, the floor disappears. Everywhere I look, a fine layer of dusty paperclips, dusty books, and dusty teacups covers the hardwood floors of the Green Room, the office guest room which used to be my room, which before that was Noah’s room. Today, it’s a museum of my belongings, all dragged up from the garage like artifacts from a shipwreck. I unpack each box blind, having given up interpreting the half-dozen crossed-out labels of these recycled Starbucks boxes.

I left Seattle quickly. Two years ago this Friday, I finished classes at 3:00 PM at Ingraham High School, and by 11:30 PM was sitting alone at Sea-Tac Airport, on my way to TeachBeyond orientation and then Austria three days later. For the last few weeks in town I prioritized teaching, relationships and support-raising over organizing and logistics, so today I’m laughing at the scrambled boxes, their contents evidence of packing done in a hurry.

And as I sit here, pulling out thing after thing that I own–but most of which I haven’t missed in the last two years–I make a few surprising discoveries:

1. I own–but possibly have forgotten how to wear–jewelry. I thought I didn’t have any earrings. I actually have dozens, also necklaces, bracelets, and the like. None of it is expensive, but all of it is bright and very much there.

2. I’ve invested a great deal of money in school supplies. Perhaps it seems like a political byword when people talk about teachers “who have to buy their own pencils.” But I did buy my own pencils. Along with markers, pens, paper clips, Post-Its and another whole box of school supplies. One trip to Staples never seems like much, but this supply-closet in the garage speaks of an underfunded system, even as it recalls four happy years at Ingraham High School.

3. Mugs are the most important dishes. They’re the only ones I have left, so apparently they are all I truly care about anymore. Two weeks ago, our artisan ceramic mugs were the only dishes that Emily and I carefully packed up and carted across the street to our new home in Kandern. Even now, I’m putting half of them in the thrift-store box with a shrug, but the other half makes me sigh and smile, remembering those good nights when we’d run a dishwasher full of mugs, replaying conversations and laughter of an evening with friends.

4. I still have too many books. Before I left, I tried to give away as many as I could, matching books to likely appreciators. But I unpack more today, volume after volume of dormant literature, realizing that I “possess” these stories to the extent that I no longer need to own them. I wonder now if a time of life will come when I feel comfortable accumulating books again, when I stop looking at them in terms of weight and size, and will appreciate the physical availability of words that I love. For now, if you need some summer reading, especially Shakespeare, please email me!

5. There is joy in “traveling light.” I felt it three weeks ago, when I was packing up my attic in Kandern, and felt inspired to gather and photograph only those things I’d save from a fire (see photo above). It wasn’t much (though I’m humbled to realized that a violin, computer and even US passport put me in a very small category of privilege). And even today, though I feel blessed by the memories these things present, I’m happy to revisit most of these belongings one last time, before sending them on to their next homes. I truly have enough, more than enough, as it is. Holly can keep the food processor; I’ll keep chopping things with our sharp knife.

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4 thoughts on “Garage Archaeology

  1. It really is amazing what we can own and not realize! That just must mean that it wasn’t important to us in the first place. Even as I try to keep a watchful eye on what comes in my home I am still surprised again and again of what I will find stashed away and forgotten later. I saw your picture on theburninghouse.com and thought wow. You seem to have a great grasp on what is important and what is not. So many of those posts seem to be from people that think they must have 2 hours to pack it all beforehand. Well, I guess to each his own. Anyway, I apologize, but I have a silly question. Where did you get that beautiful black journal that is in your picture?

  2. Thank you, Chandra! I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement. The black leather book is actually a Bible, rather than a journal. The journal is the brown cardboard book underneath it. I think I purchased the Bible online, a thin edition of the New American Standard Bible.

    • Ooooooh, ok. Wow, I feel silly! I guess I’m so used to those thick small bibles that it never even crossed my mind… Thanks for such a quick response. 🙂

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