Time marches on and it’s another blog written from another train headed south…March almost over, the clocks have sprung forward, and the mythical sun has deemed the British Isles worthy of her presence.
It’s about time, eh? This winter was definitely loooooonger than the last two I spent in Edinburgh. Multiple reasons for that, I know, and many of them explicitly NOT related to the weather or the position of the earth in relation to the sun. Luckily for me, the first day of spring also corresponds with my birthday, meaning that I am able to ring in new life for the earth with a new year of my own life. Poetic, I’m sure. There are cherry blossoms on the trees outside my window as the train crawls into York station, a lovely pink burst of new life. I love flowers, and have started buying them for my flat on a regular basis. I usually buy the ones that are close to their Tesco “expiration date”, both because they are strongly discounted and because I feel like these beautiful buds deserve the chance to brighten a home just as much as the newer ones. There is nothing WRONG with these flowers, but they have been deemed as having a shorter life span then their packaging claims, or else one bud has snapped off and the bouquet is deemed too damaged to be sold full price.
Fittingly reminiscent of our cultural obsession with youth, I think. We want the youngest, most flawless people in our movies and TV, and we want the least damaged fruits-flowers-pets-cars-partners. Personally, I cannot comprehend a life of perfectly undamaged goods. How boring and lacking in character! Character is the one thing that we continue to develop throughout or lifetime, slowly formed by every experience, run-in, and life-affirming event we dance through. The minute we are born we slowly begin to die, one day, one year at a time. It is what we do with the life between birth and death that defines us, and the people and things that we cherish that will remind others of us once we are gone. And if you think about it, all of our worldly goods, no matter how new and shiny and perfect they are now, will someday end up in what anthropology calls a ‘midden’, which is really just another name for a DUMP, mingled with other material goods into a stratified history of society that future archaeologists will dig through with careful excitement, hoping to find the secrets of a society long gone, lost in the sands of time.
Now, I’m not trying to preach about the evils of consumerism. (Anyone who has ever helped me move or stored boxes of my belongings when I move overseas knows that I am a leeeetle bit of a packrat.) I’m just saying, we should value the things we own, see the beauty in items that have already lived one life and still have life left in them instead of immediately throwing them out when the newer model comes out. Think about how ugly the world would be if we were constantly tearing down old buildings to build new, more structurally relevant ones? Or fervently fixing any flaws or cracks that creep into our useful possessions? There would be no amazing Roman architecture left from the time before Christ to draw millions of people into Rome each year, no cracked Liberty Bell to remind us of the struggles that our ancestors went through in order to build a new nation.
This week my family is emptying out my Grandparent’s house in South Carolina to get it ready for rental. A sad, nostalgic time spent revisiting Al and Helen’s past through their material possessions. Unbearably emotional for my parents, Aunts, and Uncles; and unbearably emotional for me, because I cannot be there to help them and to touch the physical remains of my grandparent’s lives together as they were left by my Grandma when she left for the west coast in 2009, not knowing that she would never return to her home. Now the life that was so neatly stored and displayed and lived in the house by the lake will be boxed up and moved to Seattle, for my Grandmother to have near her and for the family to take to their respective homes, bringing new life and purpose to old items that hold memories and sentiment of the last 83 years of my Grandmother’s life and the too-short life that my Grandfather lost 15 years ago.
How much will these items lose by being moved from their home? Will the shadow of sentiment diminish with the passage of hands and time? Yes. But I know that my family will try its hardest to retain the most meaningful pieces, the most fabulous memories, for years to come.
This has turned into a much more depressing and wandering piece than I initially intended. I was going to share news of my birthday, news of the arrival of spring. But I suppose in a circuitous way I have done both of those things. I am 27 years old. I have ushered in spring with the addition of another notch in the belt of my life. And I will, I know, continue to live, continue to collect items of consequence and (hopefully) of character. This is what we as humans do. We give meaning to the most meaningless events and we attach emotion to the most lifeless items. But it is our choosing of these items, our reactions to these events that make an impact.
Remember this the next time you casually toss out an old scarf, or carelessly knock a chip out of your dining room table. Or when you walk past the discounted flowers at the grocery store. What material goods do you want to define you, to define our culture 300 years from now? Would we treat items with such careless abandon if we knew that someone, somehow, would be able to equate their state of being with us personally when they are dug out of the midden? I don’t know…