Of springs past

It’s the beginning of spring, which means the grass turns lush, green, and soft and the Bradford pairs stink up the air. I mark the seasons by many things, but what I remember about spring is gardens and plants.  There were the annuals dad and I planted at the local church when I was young.  There was my mother’s garden, her pride and joy, with Lily of the Valley blooms bursting first.  Every year she would patiently teach me a few more plants and enthusiastically try to convince me of the merits of weeding. Clematis, gardenia, sedums, rhododendron, iris, bleeding heart, purple plum, succulents, the petunias by the doorway. There were the blooms on my grandma’s farm.  The flowers by the barn were as big as dinner plates and lazily canvassed by butterflies. I spent many hours sitting in the rocking chairs beneath the tulip trees outside the student union of my college.  Right now there are the cherry trees that blanket my current workplace parking lot in their petals.

I’m in my late twenties, which is old enough to start feeling the nostalgic ache for the people and things of years past.  People, things, and places are changed, shifted, or gone, forever put of reach.  This is perhaps one of the knottiest questions at the center of the great stuff debate.  Is memory worth keeping things over? The pirate, who pontificates like its his job (when he gets his professor hood, it will be!) likes items that are seeds for stories he can tell, memories he can re-live and reinvigorate with the re-telling.  Getting rid of the item is akin to wiping the memory. With my family history of Alzheimer’s, my hold is a bit looser.  After all, if you can’t even associate the face in the carefully labeled family picture with the person standing in front of you, no object in the world is going help.  Memories fade no matter what you do.

But I like that in this season, there are these little blooming connections to the past that pop up to say hello. On bright sunny, blooming, fragrant spring days like these, it’s easy to close my eyes and lean into the past and, for a few seconds, close the distance.



I like to think of myself as a minimalist. I find it to be a sound household cleaning and economic policy. Buy less stuff, have less to clean, have more money for other thing (‘Cause staring at the VisitScotland Instagram isn’t the same as buying a round trip ticket to Edinburgh). Bonus: less in the landfills. I try to actively re-home old or unused items (the Goodwill guys totally recognize me when I pull up) and I am very slow to bring new items home. De-cluttering stuff from high school and college is one of my dominant hobbies these days.


Yet as I sit here after hauling four loads of my stuff to the new place and many more car loads in front of me, I am forced to admit my minimalism is a load of crap. A simple Zen monk with a robe and a bowl I ain’t.

STUFF. I never imagined it could be so complicated. When I was younger and adults bought things for me, I held on to them. There was a security in the tchotchkes crammed on to my shelves, my collection of beanie babies proof that I was participating in life properly. Plus, it was rude to give away gifts. Then came college, where I accumulated a rather large collection of dorm items and was hesitant to shed anything for fear I might have need of it later; this was an effort to substitute ingenuity and re-purposing the old for buying new things. It was a surprise how thriftiness and minimalism were not terribly compatible. Once I graduated, I was so sick of moving that my desire for a quick move overcame my desire for items, and I jettisoned as much as possible. Now I’m old enough that older family is expecting me to step up and be gatekeeper to heirlooms, so at least one of those carloads was family pictures and letters. I’m also trying to curate my collection of items so when it comes time to buy a house I will have a reasonable chance of coherency in interior decorating. It’s no longer the beanie babies serving as status symbols; now it’s the home worthy of Pinterest, and I feel like a failure that my home is not Pinterest-worthy in any way possible. Well, except for maybe one shelf in my studio that has its items arranged in a pleasing manner.

But what does it mean that my minimalist self enjoys shopping for items for the home? Can I be a minimalist if instead of spending, say, $3,000 on miscellaneous items from Target I buy a single piece of furniture instead? Is minimalism primarily a financial or material philosophy? Is it morally acceptable to get rid of something because I don’t like it as opposed to it is worn out and no longer useful? What is my moral obligation to participate in the culture if materialism that supports the economy? Do houseplants count as Stuff? Can I claim minimalism when my husband is decidedly materialistic and its his stuff I have to move? How much of my minimalist tendencies are due to having no money or being tightfisted, and what happens to my ideals when I have money to spend? What is the value of keeping books I loved as a child but will likely never read as an adult, and does the value change if we plan to have kids in the future? If I don’t unpack something because we are just going to move again in 18 months, should I bother to keep it? What moral obligation to I have to heirlooms and gifts? If we derive most of our entertainment from books and games instead of TV, isn’t it okay to have more bookshelves than that average person? Is it minimalist to get rid of all my physical books and replace them with copies of ebooks? Can I want a house that looks Pinterest-worthy without wanting the status that comes with it?

Which is to say that last night over my pint of Highland Gaelic beer at the local Irish Pub, that all this seemed so very stupid and pointless. Talk about your first world problems. The Pirate, who has more in common with a clutterist that a minimalist and has a new box arriving from Kickstarter every other week, agreed I was worrying too much over nothing. So we had a lovely evening trading bites of fish n’ chips and lamb boxty.


Then I pulled a shoulder muscle moving boxes this morning and resolved to get rid of half my things by the next move, because screw that!

Betwixt and Between

It’s that tingly time of year where fall has started to leak into summer.  The air is crisp around the edges, the days are getting shorter, and Uncle Shuck’s corn maze has announced the delightfully curvy maze design for this year.

Giant corn maze and pumpkin patch at Uncle Shucks in Dawsonville, GA, North East of Atlanta near Gainesville and Alpharetta.

I did my traditional fall planning a bit early this year. There were a lot of completed dreams, a few new ones, and a list of leftovers.  What to do with these old dreams and why were they still on my list?  I finally admitted most of the old dreams fell into the category of “assumed good idea” or “I should” or “made sense several years earlier” but had no current passion to fuel them.  These are the dreams I held in my head for so long they have been worn smooth like worry stones.  So I released them, and I found this spell of peace and emptiness to indulge in this lazy, muggy summer.  I ate Mr. Stripy tomatoes with cottage cheese and yellow squash with fresh tarragon.


I read e-books I will now recommend to you: Jim Gaffigin’s Dad is Fat and Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. I painted the rocking chair on the back porch and didn’t worry about making it perfect as long as the colors made me smile.  I got bright blue hair extensions.  I re-potted my plant collection.  I mourned when a dove’s nest was knocked out of our entryway and the eggs smashed on the concrete below.


I found a Friday knit group.  I kissed and talked and played with the Pirate.  Whenever anybody asked me about my weekend plans, I said “I’ll be on my couch, playing Zelda* and watching Supernatural and pretending the rest of the world doesn’t exist.”

Right now we’re in the space between.  The space between fall and summer, the space between the busy seasons of our day jobs, and the space between the next life stage – graduation, moving, kids?  In the past I have hated the awkward between space, but this time I’m drinking deeply.   There is an irreversible flood of change dribbling in, both with us and the lives of our loved ones.  What will our community look like in five years?  Who will we meet, who will we talk to, who will we miss?  We’ve lined up the rest of the year with back-to-back visits to and from family and friends, but I still find myself wishing I had the security of time travel with my own Pedestal of Time.  (ALSO, can I please have a song that summons my own horse?)


*Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 3DS.