Tag Archives: photo

things to hold on to, things to let go

Sadie just left for her new life on a country farm. We’ve had ample time to prepare for her departure, and because she’s visited the farm several times already, we know she’s happy there. All of this preparation makes her absence much less sad than it could have been. Letting something I’ve loved for a long time go to a better home is OK. Besides, in my mind, Sadie will live happily ever after. I will never have to suffer those days of watching her in pain or the agony of deciding to put her down.

While I’m able to let go on this point, I still hold on to ridiculous pieces of someone’s past, not sure where to file them. These two photographs were tucked inside of a rare book by Marie Cardinal that I picked up at a flea market in Lausanne, Switzerland. I have held on to them for the past ten years, not knowing who the woman is, but imagining she looks something like Cardinal. I’ve studied the pictures over the years and tucked them back in the book again, forgetting they exist. It’s almost as though I’m the guardian of someone else’s memory, a memory now vacant of meaning and waiting for my story to transpose itself there. Will my new photo replace the paper copies making the meaning now mine? Am I the new home for this adopted memory, a better place for the image to live on? Or is it now up to me to decide if the photos should be discarded, laid to rest, put down and out of their misery?

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the horror … the humor

game closet

We made a very quick visit to my parents’ home on Friday and Saturday and I’m still unable to process much of what we witnessed. It is only the third time in the last five years that we’ve been there, and the distance makes their home all the more startling. I can safely respond to my own questions that, no, my memory has not exaggerated the state of their hoarding. New to me, however, is the understanding that my step-mother participates in the hoarding as much as she claims she detests it. As D. put it, maybe she criticizes the clutter as a way of defending herself or removing herself from it. I could plainly see in the piles of things many items that my father did not collect.

In addition to what I saw, I remained mindful that we were visiting the house in its very best state. I know my step-mom had been cleaning at least all that day if not for days. Many of the piles in plain sight were very neatly stacked and dusted.

As soon as we arrived and my step-mother took our daughter for a few minutes, I ran around the house frantically snapping pictures before I could get caught. The garage and basement were barricaded, but I was at least able to open doors, if not walk into the spaces themselves. A new cat is now living in the garage, the guest bedroom is completely inaccessible (I had intended to photograph the inside of the massive closet that I presume to still be full of magazines), and the office has only a narrow diagonal path from the door to the desk. That room used to be a usable family area with a fold out couch. I was unable to photograph the numerous barbecue grills and trucks and and and …. in the yard. And as startling as all of it is, the houses around my parents’ are also filled to the gills with cluttered porches and yards and rundown facades. It almost seems to be a prerequisite to country living in “those parts.”

cat in the garage

How I got out of that place before the hoard set in, or if the hoard began because my brothers and I were no longer there, I do not know. I know my parents would be horrified to know that I’m posting this, and it would hurt them deeply to be exposed in such a way. I have found the photographs helpful in numerous ways. I did not have time to really “see” while snapping them. Now, in the comfort of our empty-ing home, I can see the individual items that compile the stacks of stuff. I recognize odd objects from my past, and I can plainly see where the inability to declutter can lead. Numerous times, unprompted, my parents said they were working on getting rid of things. There was apparently a “huge bonfire” last summer, with their stuff going up in smoke. There is some will on their part to part with what they have so they might have more freedom to move or travel. But for every little acknowledgment, there is also new stuff coming in all the time.

the "office"

We were exhausted by the time we came home yesterday afternoon, and the recovery from the memory may take a few days. I hope to be able to use more images as I process what we witnessed.

cataloging

Part of the downfall of craigslist for me is that the weeding out simultaneously creates a new type of collection. To properly list and successfully sell items, I photograph them. And now my hard drive is filling with images of the items that no longer clutter the house. A few of the images were deleted with ease, but I have duplicates. A new compulsion to catalogue what leaves the house tugs at me gently, rationalizing itself as beautiful.

compulsion to sell

Our almost 2-year-old has a new favorite activity: throwing things in the trashcan. She especially enjoys stripping the “clothes” off of her crayons and throwing the paper away.

The desire to whittle away at piles of stuff is new to me, but the compulsion to eliminate grows. On Monday when it was time to start writing, I was overcome for the first time with the deep urge to sell something on craigslist. I felt it had been too many days since I’d last let go of my past.

A man who owns a thriftstore in a nearby town contacted me about a jewelry box I had listed. He asked me to bring any other collectibles, especially jewelry, but he was also interested in a number of items I do not own such as guns and knives. I scurried around the house grabbing objects without reflecting on them. For $20 Mike bought a big chunk of jewelry, some of it possibly valuable jade, lapis, silver and gold pieces, as well as a small box given to me by a friend when we were about 12 years old. The box was the only item to which I attached any meaning (significant given my first wedding band was in the lot), even though that friend is only a vague connection on facebook today. While that piece stirred the most hesitation in me, I had not thought of it again until writing this today. I have it captured on film. Its memory is enough.