I’m talking about my really cool shells (strewn willy-nilly on my end table) and gazillions of dust-covered books on everything from the Kabbalah, Hindu goddesses and the feminine in Buddhism, to good old-fashioned sci-fi masterpieces by the likes of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. I suspect that my books have secretly procreated on their own (leaving my niche with four bookcases plus dresser inaccessible and also finding purchase somewhere in two bookcases – with one propped on top of the other and wedged behind the bedroom door, for the sake of precious, non-existent floor space) since I swear that I haven’t seen some of them before.
In my living room (doing double time as my office) my precious, proud feathers (precariously perched on the TV and fireplace mantle) and a hodge-podge of candles, with all manner of "soup-to nuts” holders (squeezed into a going concern inside the fireplace), has added another dimension of complexity to my admittedly stuffed-full living space. Then there are my mesmerizing marbles (teeny cat eyes, one of a kind happy face solids, uni-coloured and multi-coloured allsorts, and huge, delightful shooters – I think I have about 2,000) painstakingly gathered over the course of my lifetime. They’re all carefully displayed in various shaped jars, bowls and pottery, placed in an array of auspicious places to allow for viewing and "proper” appreciation.
Then there’s my prized six foot wide by five foot high wall tapestry, bought just before the Second World War in a Russian shop near Neunkirchen (my home town in Austria). It depicts a forest scene with a mother bear and three bear cubs playing in a sun dappled, fecund Alpine forest. (I discovered recently that the scene is from a painting that is a national treasure in Russia.) The woven strands of green, yellow and rust create a gentle and tranquil mood that somehow invites onlookers to relax and stay awhile. When we first came to Canada I was five years old. I would often lie on our davenport under where the tapestry hung, in our three room, ramshackle tiny abode, and dreamily visualized myself in the forest. What can I say? It’s another treasure among many.
Ultimately, I call this stuff "gak.” My sister Edith says, "It’s just dead stuff.” Judy views it all as ridiculous and irrelevant. Yet her heart’s in the right place. She sees me being smothered by my gak. Truthfully, I have been slowly untangling, sorting and purging other parts of my property. The two rooms were just the last frontiers to conquer. I admit that the oppression from embankments of "just for now” gak deposits has been building for some time.
So when I let Judy have her way with my little end table just inside my bedroom door, I hardly gasped at all. The austere, yet perky two items (my inlaid wood jewelry box from Europe and my circle of three women candle holder that I got from my dear friend Marilyn) left on the now doily-free wooden top seemed to work. In that moment, something clicked inside me and I dove into a four day sojourn into the bowels of my booty.
The whole kit and caboodle has been sorted, lovingly passed on to friends and/or painstakingly placed in easy to carry, plastic bags destined for my tai chi club’s rummage sale. The Sally Ann was the lucky winner of the three bags of clothes and gak from the garage sale of last summer. I had to get the bags out of the back seat of my 1999 Toyota Tercel in order to get the tai chi gak to the club.
So my ride down a poignant memory lane, strewn with quiet sadness and reawakened joy, yielded a totally different and welcome kind of space. As you can no doubt imagine, I feel clearer and even more focused. I can breathe easier now. The gak that I’ve decided to keep serves as little nuggets of chapters and experiences that have helped to shape me. Plus, this smattering of mementos provides a sort of platform that supports me in going forward. That’s a good thing. Don’t worry. I still have my root made into a candle holder from my childhood. (I still remember the bits of sawdust that would appear on the counter under the holder for quite a while, making me wonder about the doomed little critter inside the wood.) It’s one step at a time.
Helena Green – Writer, Life Skills & Spirituality Coach, Ritualist, and Health Management Facilitator.