I’m in the city for most of this week before heading up to the cabin. It turns out that I do this little circuit two or three times a year now – time in Victoria, then over to Vancouver for a few days, before going to the interior cabin. It’s a funny (wrong) thing that we own three places, plus have family places to stay on Vancouver Island – but there it is, our lives got a bit weird when we decided to partially (mostly) leave the city.
We spent this past weekend helping in my mother-in-law’s garden, and also cleaning their house for real estate viewings. It has come time for my in-laws to downsize their life a bit and move into a town again. They have been living rural for the last eighteen years, with a 45 minute drive to the closest town, and a forty-minute round trip just to get groceries. As they age, it’s less and less manageable. So it goes for most people. My mom would love to move into a less rural setting, but thus far my father refuses. That’s another way things can happen. Aging is complicated, but at least on both fronts our families have enough financial resources to manage their needs.
All this conversation with the parents and in-laws though, makes me wonder if its possible to make decisions now that will create more ease for our 75-year-old selves. Then again, I wonder if we will even get to be 75 and that part of me is actually a bit relieved. If it all goes to shit, we won’t ever have to disburse property and the forest (eventually) will just take it over again after we go. I doubt that though. Somehow I think we’ll be living to deal with our stuff, even if it’s in a radically altered world.
We’ve been working on wills lately, and I’m writing an essay about the burden of things, so it’s what I’m thinking about. With no real conclusions except that I own too much stuff and I make too much stuff, and the world doesn’t need any more of us or our possessions. And yet, it keeps flooding through the broken tap of consumption culture. I take responsibility for the fact that I purchase things, of course, though I mostly confine myself to yarn and books these days and then tell myself it’s okay because these are just small indulgences. I know that’s not so, but I don’t really want to face the fact of my burden on the planet and so I lie to myself so I can keep weaving and reading.
A few months ago I was in Ottawa and I told a work friend – one of the most acquisitive people I know – that I felt bad whenever I bought things and he asked me in all earnestness “Is it because you don’t think you deserve nice things?” I responded “No! It’s because we’re killing the planet!” Later on he told me he was planning a trip to Colombia so he could buy an emerald, and even though I went to great lengths to dissuade him because of the horrible human rights abuses and so on, I don’t think he cared very much. I expect the next time I see him he will have gone. He too has a rationale for his most horrendous spending (“it’s my birthstone!”)
I compare my yarn and book purchases to this and they don’t look so bad, but at the same time I co-own three properties, and each of them is full of things.
My goal is to get rid of things when it is time to do so, as I already find it easy to part with items once I am done with them. When Brian no longer works in the city, we will sell the condo. When we are too old to drive to the interior, or the fires get too bad, we will let go of the cabin. Just as we have expanded through our thirties and forties, so we will shrink in our sixties and seventies. I want the shedding of things to happen as effortlessly as the acquiring of them has been, to attach no emotional value to them, to let go when they are no longer useful to me without clinging. I wish that for my parents and in-laws now more than ever, though I fear that the clinging to possessions and the stories that go with them might just be a part of facing the reality of death and not wanting to let go of one’s animating spirit most of all.