But while we’re still here, we need these things. The other day when I was discarding the mail, charity appeals and catalogs, it struck me that we were receiving them because we were people with established lives; it showed that on some level we were here. I had a similar feeling seeing the umbrella on the backyard patio. It hadn’t just appeared. Someone had chosen it (from patioshoppers.com if you must know) and planned this area with enthusiasm and hope.
So our surroundings are a culmination of all the years we’ve lived, everything we’ve done, what we have been given from our families and friends, the places we’ve traveled to--physically and metaphorically. There was a piece in the Times written by a man whose family moved frequently when he was a child, and whose car was repossessed every few months. As an adult, things don’t mean much to him; when he moves it’s easy for him to leave everything behind and buy what fits where he is now.
There’s something freeing about that, but also something sad. If you look around your home you’ll see that so many things hold your history. Sitting in my living room I can see the antique glass lamp from my parents; the rug on the wall we carried back from the Navaho reservation; art bought in Ecuador, Italy, Russia, Morocco; the piece of marble our friend Dick gave us years ago because it fit perfectly on our antique carved cabinet. Framed paintings of fish by Andrew and Emily, the dining room table from Tom’s family.
All these things enhance our lives, show that we have lived. That’s why I think it's so important to discard all those things that don’t mean anything, that we no longer use or love. Because they can crowd out what's meaningful and hide who we are.