Terry and I have been talking for years about sorting through our possessions, and during this period of winter hibernation we are finally doing it.
The true work of writing begins with editing, and editing begins with deleting everything unnecessary. I’m applying that rule to my stuff. The CDs which have already been transferred to iTunes can be put in the warehouse; old tax returns can be stored, ones that are more than eight years old thrown away. It breaks my heart to throw away my paperback copies of Jude, the Obscure, David Copperfield, Emma, and the like, but the pages are turning brown, and if I need to read them, I can get them inexpensively. If I’ve written something in a book, for example, “Ann Evans, 1963, Miniati 11” (my old address in Greenwich Village), or if my mother signed her name in a long ago book of poetry, I can’t bear to part with it. I have a burgeoning shelf of books written by friends who have signed them personally, and they’re not going anywhere. My Linguistics notes and a few textbooks are going bye-bye. I’ve kept on display one photograph of each of my close loved ones and put the rest in albums.
Some aspects of the new household arrangement reflect goals or more accurately aspirations. I have gathered a dozen books on jazz, music theory, chromatic harmony, etc. because when I have finished everything else I have to do in my life, I want to learn how to improvise on the piano.
Hidden corners disgorged ancient New Yorkers, shoes too tight to wear, my grandmother’s petticoats, and our cache of food for the time when the electricity goes out, dating from Hurricane Sandy. I don’t suppose a can of kidney beans ever gets old, though the raisins are probably petrified by now. Does Terry need a beautifully illustrated calendar from 1997?
The drawers of my work desk have been relieved of their multitude of little notebooks I might use some day, German Rosetta Stone CDs, opera glasses, old checkbooks, and containers full of coins to make room for the paper clips, scissors, magnifying glass, and clothes pins (it’s next to the balcony where I hang out clothes to dry sometimes) that cluttered the desktop. The eyeglass cleaner, lip balm, and nasal spray went into a drawer too. Reorganizing saved us the expense of a new desk.
Besides winnowing out the dead weight, I have been turning my attention to the things we are going to keep. I removed the brass handles from the desk I inherited from my aunt, polished them up, and am massaging the wood with lemon oil every week or so, bringing back a burnish that was long gone. It’s a beautiful antique and deserves loving care.
We haven’t finished wallowing through clothes, books, and boxes of this and that. The challenge will be to keep up our level of energy and attention until the job is done. When that day comes, it will feel wonderful.