It is thick crystal, sloping out from its solid base just enough to look graceful, the grooves cut in its sides flaring up from the bottom, ending just below its smoothly turned lip. It looks expensive, probably was. I have kept it these seventeen years because it was a wedding gift. The one time I filled it with a spring bouquet of peonies it couldn’t hold them the way I want peony bouquets held. But I displayed it on a shelf for months at a time where I could flick it with my finger as I walked by. Ping-g-g! Such a lovely crystally ring. Recently I gave it away.
I could wear it. Of course I could. And when I lost that ten pounds that was coming off right away I’d actually be able to button it. Loved that sweater, black with bright autumn colored flowers embroidered in clusters in just the right places. I spent a little more than I usually would because it looked so classy. Now, after seven years admiring it each September before refolding it for another year on the shelf, I have slipped it, Si-i-igh! into the bag headed for the thrift store where I volunteer each week.
Just after I turned five in May we moved into a house with a thicket of old roses hedging in the small front yard. They bloomed in early June. Never before, or since, have I experienced such a powerful and dazzling fragrance. For that two weeks of bloom time each year of my young childhood I sniffed myself dizzy and plucked and tossed petals for a thousand brides. And into the first flower bed I cultivated when I moved here seventeen years ago I placed a rose, the first of many. I have, in fact, planted roses in each flower bed in my house yard where they have been nourished with compost, old manure and various other potions advised by various sources, and not matter what type of rose I plant, where I plant them or what I do for them, they remain sullen sticks that bloom grudgingly, producing small blighted mockeries of my delightful memories. This fall I moved through my yard spritzing yellow paint across each one, for the young man helping me will dig out only what I have marked. Thwa-ack! His shovel hits the earth.
Let’s see, when was the last time I did cross-stiching? Or quilting? Such lovely patterns in all these books and needlework magazines. When was the last time I looked at them? Of course, they fit neatly on the shelves in this small cupboard and some I’ve had for forty years. Out! Out! Someone else wants them, may actually use them. Deep breath, Who-o-oh! And into the bag they go.
I lift the lid off the large box. It is filled with receipts, pawn tickets, neatly drawn diagrams with scribbled notes, a few photos, a ledger book, an empty wallet; stuff; things. I look at each one, a few I set aside to keep, the rest go back into the box, which I carry out to the burn barrel. Six years ago my son died and while it is way past time to turn loose of these unimportant leftovers of his life; they cannot be simply tossed into the trash. I light a match, the flame rises and I sob. The smoke floats away, my pain does not.
“I need to clean things out.” my mother constantly worried the last few years of her life as she gave me things to take away. I was amused because I didn’t understand, but now I do. As I have become older my surroundings have become full of stuff I no longer use, no longer need, or don’t really care about any more. Being who I am, I tidy it up and tuck it neatly away out of sight. The problem is that everything tucked away is part of the story of who I am, who I was, and what has been important to me. I just don’t want to let go.
This morning I rolled over, fully awake, and looked at the clock on the dresser on the other side of the bed, which promptly flicked to 5:11 a.m. For two weeks now, no matter how late I go to sleep, I have waked at the exact same time, and every morning I have closed my eyes again but lain awake until my restlessness pulled me up and out of my warm nest. I know what God is doing. When I first began writing here, it was the new ideas that woke me early, lifting me from comfort into the struggle to express a new story. I have no new stories and I don’t want to get up. But this morning I let go of my right to decide, such an important part of me, and put my feet on the floor. As I walked across the room I’m pretty sure I felt a subtle flick on the side of my head. Ping-g-g! Yes, I am still here, learning to let go.