Show Your Work: Possessions

I’m trying something new that’s inspired by a writer/artist whose work I admire. Austin Kleon is the author of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, both simple and genius manifestos for the creative life. I keep his books on my desk the same way some people keep their therapists on speed dial. I find his words both inspiring and grounding. In his latest book he advocates showing some of your work in progress, as opposed to fully formed, as a way to boost creativity, move past mental blocks and ultimately get your work Out There. By bringing people along for the ride, you and your audience will both see your work in a new light.

The idea of posting my incomplete thoughts doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me, but I’m giving it a whirl. I’m giving lots of things a whirl lately, because it seems to be that kind of year for me (Did I mention I humbled myself enough to aquajog?? I digress.)

So I’m embracing this idea and will periodically highlight miscellany that's on my mind or projects on my horizon. Incomplete but still interesting. We will see where they take us!

Lately I’ve been thinking about stuff. As in, possessions.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, we recently moved into a small rental so we can remodel our house. The move required  extensive purging and methodical packing. The goal was to pare things down as much as possible, store most of our belongings, and live for 6 months or so with only the basics. Now, I realize that “basics” is a relative term and we all have our threshold for needs and wants and everything in between.

For us, that meant ALL the Legos stayed, because nobody could decide how to divvy them up. Almost all the books were stored, knowing that between the library and the bookstore, stories would keep coming into our lives. Bulky things like the large Kitchenaid mixer were happily stored, and have already given me an excuse to avoid baking things from scratch. We packed half our dishes, every single vase or decorative item, and most everything that was hanging on a wall.

I have long subscribed to the philosophy of only keeping “what you use or what you love” so our home was already pretty lean. Now it’s anorexic. Part of me finds it liberating to live with only the basics, but it’s strange not to be surrounded by at least a few material things I love. Of course, we've got our people and our pet so life is good...our home just feels different right now.

Last week I ran across this video by filmmaker Gemma Green-Hope, who created a short film after her family sorted through her grandmother’s belongings. It’s a lovely tribute. My favorite quote is, “I wanted to show her to myself.”

That video got me thinking about the things my mother left behind when she passed away three years ago after a long illness. She had battled multiple sclerosis for nearly 30 years and had spent the last 10 years of her life supported by a ventilator. The "basics" in her life are relative too. My mom's life was extremely simplified the last few years, but required unfathomable amounts of medicine and complex supplies to keep her comfortable.

A couple months after her death, I helped my father clean out her closet, which in some ways seemed frozen in time from when she was first diagnosed. I wrote about it at the time, but until yesterday I had not re-read that piece in years. Of course it brought back a flood of emotions...just in time for Mother’s Day. It’s amazing how your own words can come back and catch you off guard. I lived and breathed that experience, but still it seems like another me altogether.

During the clean-out, I also photographed some of the little things I uncovered in my mother’s drawers. There were no big surprises...only small moments of nostalgia or grieving. There were a few questions that would never be answered: Why did she save this but not that? Why was this recipe tucked in with her jewelry? There were also some heartbreaking juxtapositions. I had been in her closet hundreds of time and grown numb to all the medical supplies that filled her shelves. But seeing them through the camera lens changed everything. Suddenly I saw not just the life-sustaining tubes, but the neighboring sweaters that she hadn’t worn in 10 years because she hadn’t left her bed, much less her house, in all that time.

By now I’ve sorted through her treasures and kept a few things that mean something to me. When our house is finished, I will unpack them once again and find a new home for them. The photos...I don’t know what I’ll do with them. But I’m sharing a few of them here. Showing you what’s on my mind. Seeing where it takes me.

Thanks for seeing with me.

IMG_6278

IMG_6288

IMG_6282

IMG_6273

IMG_2825

 

 

*     *     *

Thanks to everyone who entered last week's giveaway. The winner of the Moms Are Nuts book is NaDell. Enjoy!