Monthly Archives: January 2017

Where the Past and Future Meet

 

boxes-in-journal

Just because it’s an ugly job doesn’t mean I can’t have some scribbly fun in my journal. The journals, btw, are going into storage. You never know when I might need a reminder about all the strange decisions I’ve made so far…

At the moment, my past and present are colliding in a humongous jumble of boxes stacked high in every available space in my Victoria suite. After 20 years at one address (a record!), I am moving. And, downsizing. Drastically. With any luck, I’ll be spending lots of time over the next number of years living in tiny spaces – a sailboat. A tent. During my more luxurious moments, in a condo in the mountains.

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Every room looks like this at the moment. Books and boxes everywhere. Total chaos.

With all that in mind and more determined than ever to be mobile and unfettered (as unfettered as someone who is recently engaged can be…), I have been going through ALL my stuff. Yep, even the boxes full of ancient files containing useful things like phone bills from 1984, the dot matrix drafts of papers from university, every draft of every book or article I’ve ever written, random receipts, shopping lists, birthday cards from people I don’t even know… Why, oh why did I feel I needed to keep my copy of meeting minutes from every meeting I’ve attended over the past 30+ years? Phone memos torn from those pink message pads? I can barely remember those jobs, never mind the person or phone number so carefully saved in boxes all these years. The toss (well, recycle) ratio on most of this papery dreck is running at 90% or higher.

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Typical of the number of boxes of files and papers in a given corner… Below, the same corner after the excavation. All that reduced to one, small box.

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Likewise, the books are being drastically reduced in number. I have been culling for several years now, but this last go round is truly impressive. I probably started with 12,000-15,000 books and will perhaps wind up with 500. Which is pretty incredible (though I’m wondering if I could actually get that number down even lower). I’m either donating to schools, giving them to friends, sending them off to thrift shops, or, for the relatively few that may have some modest value, they are heading off to find new owners via a couple of used book shops. Said shops provide store credit only, so for the little I get from my 50+ years of rabid collecting (hoarding!) of books, I’ll be able to get a few choice Christmas presents or select titles I decide I absolutely need to add to what will be a rather modest collection. It’s thoroughly depressing to think how very little used books are actually worth in our world.

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So many manuscript drafts. I kept editorial notes (like these from an early draft of Tarragon Island) and a few sample pages here and there, took some snapshots of random pages and then… tossed the rest away.

Has it been hard to let all that stuff go? At first, it was excruciating. Every book that went into a ‘donate’ box tugged at my heart strings. I may not have read every book on my shelves, but I know where they all came from and why they are there. My bookshelves were a sort of visual archive of my entire life and every time I let one go it was like letting a little piece of my past disappear.

And then, it got easier. I’m not sure what happened, but there was a massive shift in the way I was looking at what suddenly seemed to be an excessive number of books for any one human to possess. Armloads started going into the boxes destined for various schools… most of my equestrian-themed books went off to the Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association. Others, I realized, would find plenty of pleasure in the books I have had around me for so long.

nikki-monkey

Photos like this one of me feeding a monkey in Singapore, 1967 are keepers. The French homework notebook into which this photo had been tacked has been tossed. This is why it’s taking me so long to go through everything. There are gems hidden away, tucked between the pages of books, folded up and wedged between old phone bills, scribbled on napkins and, yes, recorded on ancient cassette tapes. The audio-visual finds will have to wait to be shared until I can convert them into something the digital world can understand.

The task is, as you can imagine, huge. Though it has become easier to decide what can go and what must be stored away until I’m once again in a place where I can lovingly place my favourite bliblio-babies back on bookshelves, the sheer volume of material I need to work my way through is staggering.

But so worth it.