This is a time of the year when I am normally very reflective, but I’ve been in a sort of haziness the past month or so. If you’ve ever tried to write a weekly blog, you can understand how being able to reflect is important when you recount your week. I find myself struggling more than usual to recall the moments worth remembering, not because they aren’t happening as much, but because I’m not giving them much attention. It’s been cold and dark this week, and even though we have the assurance we’re closer to warm temps and long days than we were, I think it’s starting to wear on me. I’ve also noticed it is harder and harder to wake up and go to sleep so early, knowing I will only be doing it a little longer. It is interesting how we adjust to lifestyles when we see them as indefinite or finite.
We got visits this week two days in a row from camp friends who have made a point to stay in touch with us. Lisa dropped by on Tuesday before going back to Indiana and Hope visited Wednesday before going back to Arkansas. It’s interesting how friendships evolve over time. I remember both of these girls when they were children then teenagers. I trained them and supervised them at camp. There were moments they confided in me with really deep personal struggles and successes, and when you share stuff like that, it’s hard not to stay in touch. Then there’s this moment you realize you’re both adults now and your more friends than you were a year ago. Since Allyson and I moved, Lisa and Hope, are among the group of people who take time out of their trips to Tennessee to come to our house and catch up.
When you work at a fantastic place and become associated with it to many people, it’s hard not to wonder how much of their appreciation for you is just appreciation of that place. When you leave that place you wonder if people will care that much, so long as the place is still there. Friendships like these are incredibly special to me. I don’t know if they realize it, but they have really made me feel valuable in a time I was trying to figure out how to be useful in a new place.
It’s, of course, been mad cold this week. The type of cold that makes business move slower. The type of cold that causes a jump in the stocks for pizza delivery and netflix. In those 4:45 am walks to the radio station this week, I’ve felt some serious cold–the type that freezes your nose hairs and the part of your mustache that catches your exhales. You rarely think about how the air you breath out is laced with moisture. You’ll see it if you breathe on a mirror, you might feel it if someone very close to you breathes on you. But, when it freezes straight out of your nose, it’s a different sort of reminder. It takes some thinking about how moisture even got there.
Allyson and I began packing this week, though most of the credit really goes to her. Since we’re sending our stuff out in a moving van that will be crossing the continental divide, Allyson is very intentional about packing our stuff in way that will not have it arrived in more pieces than we sent it. She’s been bubble-wrapping, newspapering, and packing-taping like crazy. I have packed up the beefier or unbreakable stuff like books or clothes. I’m also the guy who takes off the inevitable recycling this process requires, along with a bunch of stuff to go to Angel’s Attic, our local consignment shop that takes anything you want to donate.
In theory, I really want to live a simple life. I feel how having more stuff weighs me down and creates a lot of work for me or someday the poor next of kin who must go through my stuff when I kick it. I love to backpack, because you really experience how little you need, and how that freedom allows you to enjoy so much more. It’s hard in practice, though. You wonder if you might ever need that appliance or book or piece of clothing you haven’t used in 4 years. You tell yourself you’ll need it the moment you through it away. You want to keep every letter you’ve ever received, knowing how nice it is to revisit them, but what they ultimately create is boxes of taken-up closet space that you can’t even get back to. Then when you move you shell out extra cash to move them to a new closet and take up extra time you don’t really have to load them and even figure out what they are.
Thinking about the incredible distance we will travel to get to our new life in Oregon has really shown me what we do to ourselves when we take on more stuff than we need. I can see it in a long road trip. Funny that it’s so much harder to see on this much longer road trip of life. It will be so much nicer to move to Oregon with just what we need to live, just the sentimental things that are most special, that we’ll see regularly and not have to store away in the dust and darkness. I think about how much nicer it is to sit at the table with those friends who come to visit, that time seems so much more special than the time spent pouring over so much of my stuff, wondering why I kept it in the first place. Why do I not remember that every day? Why am I not pouring my resources more into creating these times than trying to hold on and save so much?
Don’t get me wrong, there are things I have that are incredibly useful, things are very special because of what they mean or what they remind me of. I have a small painting that Mark bought me at a mall for a dollar just a few months before he died. I have owl figures that good friends bought us when they traveled all over the world, because they know Allyson and I see them as a symbol for us. I have a compass that belonged to my grandfather, that my dad gave me one evening when I told him how much I love navigating with maps. I always keep it with me. But these special things can pile up fast and become not so special. It’s important to ask ourselves why these things are important, and occasionally ask are we still that same person we were when we stowed it away. I’ve remembered these past few weeks, it’s just as fulfilling to give some of your special things away to people who can now use them more than you.
The day that Hope came was the coldest day of the year so far. Wind chills below zero. It was Hope’s birthday. Our good friends Katie and Quint came over to visit. I made pizzas, and we traded stories about many things from music, to moving, to future plans. Allyson was ready to make cookies with her new Kitchen-aide blender when we discovered we didn’t have brown sugar. I wanted Hope to have dessert on her birthday, and I very much wanted chocolate chip cookies, so I offered to walk down to the BP Station to see if they had brown sugar. There was a part of me that just wanted to feel what it would be like on this bitter cold night to be out in the world walking. Quint said he’d go with me.
We walked to BP, and when they told us they didn’t have brown sugar, we walked even farther to Walgreen’s. When we found they didn’t have brown sugar, we walked even farther to Rite Aid. They had brown sugar, if you ever need to know. As Quint and I walked, I could feel the cold breaking through my clothes, my toboggan. It was some kind of cold. I would not want to have be stuck out there. But, I was moving, I had a purpose, and I had a good friend traveling with me. That night we’d eat cookies. I’d send some home with Hope.
Just before bed that night, while I was out with Digby, a guy named Patrick walked past our yard. He approached me with the sort of respectful humbleness that I knew meant he was going to ask me for something. He said he needed gas to get to Mayfield and only needed seven dollars. The cynical side of me knew immediately that this was a made-up story, and I was already tired and bemoaning the knowledge that I had to get up 3 hours before sunrise the next morning. He was very friendly, and (hilariously) worried that Digby might hurt him. I told him I’d be right back. I found some loose cash, but then decided, this dude is out on the coldest night of the year, who really cares if he’s lying. He obviously needs this more than me. The next best thing I could think of was Allyson’s cookies, so a grabbed a few and put them in a zip-lock bag. I was still a touch grouchy and matter-of-fact when I gave it to him, but I told him, “Eat the cookies, they’re really good.” He was very gracious. I went in not knowing exactly how to feel. But, I felt good that I hadn’t eaten all the cookies myself, that I had passed some of that on. We’ve been sharing a lot and dropping a lot of dead weight. It is certainly work. But, it makes the traveling much easier.