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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Confessions of a Former Anti-Materialist, or Possession Purgatory: Part I

Beware of possessions, for they soon will possess you. Better for yourself and the Earth to live lightly, taking with you only what is of necessity.

--My memory of a wise saying. If no one said it, someone should have. 

As a child and young adult I imagined myself living as an artist, and exploring the world, seeking truth and beauty, unencumbered by material possessions. Well, other than art supplies.  This is a drawing I made of myself in a letter to my sister when I was 18 and drove cross country with my Aunt Anna and Aunt Claire:

I sensed that having children would challenge my philosophy. Fortunately, I had no inclination to have any, so it was easy for me to tell people that children, and a house and a yard, were for others who lacked imagination.

Jumping forward about 10 years, before I moved to Concord in 1990, I was living in Olympia Washington, sometimes in a room in a friend’s house, sometimes pretty much out of my VW van:

Doing portraits at the Saturday Market

I did have large stashes of art supplies, boxes of old drawings, paintings and journals, in the attics of several family members and friends. But all in all, I felt I was doing well by the planet and myself.

About a year before I moved back east, I moved into a garage that my landlord and I made into a studio apartment. It was more room than I had previously had, yet I rapidly filled it to bursting.

About 2 years after I moved to Massachusetts, Matt and I had gotten married and moved into a TINY house on the boarder of Lexington and Arlington. This house was so small that I could vacuum the whole thing without unplugging the vacuum cleaner.

Humble as it was, I went through much soul searching and agonized over buying furniture for our little bungalow. I could sense that I was moving away from my ideals of basically only owning art supplies.

Well, I guess something about getting married and moving into a house affected my imagination because soon enough I could think of little else but wanting a baby. Which seemed to inevitably lead to more possessions:


And the house was getting really, really small.


On to half of a much bigger house. But really, the most important thing to get for the first baby, was a second baby:

At the time, Claire was quite satisfied with her cousins.

    With children, it is nice to have cousins coming over to play, and friends and family for dinners and holidays, and the kids need to run around, and……

On to the next bigger house, with an actual yard.

I have my suspicions that there is someone above the clouds who has a lot of babies behind him jostling for position to come back to Earth. I think he noticed that we had moved into a house with a yard that was easily adequate for another being.

And thank goodness, or we might not have gotten Iris.

Adele was delighted with the new addition. So was Claire, eventually.

So here we are in this big house with a yard, and a garage that is full, and three kids and three cats and two cars, and there are garden tools and endless sports equipment, and  I never did stop accumulating art supplies (and sewing supplies and wood working, and picture framing equipment, and……).

 And we are thinking that we will be in this house at least until Iris graduates from high school in  2018. So, years of possessions move in, they accumulate and sink, one layer over the other, into every corner and crevice. And the memory of the unencumbered life, living lightly on the planet, well, it is just too hard in the midst of this heavily laden house to see my way back to that.

I have become the person Wendall Barry was thinking of when he said, “Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house set on fire.”

Stay tuned to find out how our move to Spain propelled a further descent into
                                                   Possession Purgatory.

Please feel free to leave a comment, or send me one at                        

1 comment:

  1. So now that we know how you truly feel... and the terror is behind you. Welcome back to your one of many homes! What an ordeal you've been through, yet how great that you got to appreciate another fine New England weather. I'm not so sure I agree it is a winter not to be missed, but then I am staying for the remaining months of it. You are now admiring your view and re-adjusting to apartment living. Speaking of apartment, what an awesome rendoring of your visit to Andy and Margaret's. I love how you captured all the details, including the cats. Your blog just wouldn't be the same without out all your delightful and really good illustrations. Love the photos - you are having just way too much fun (er procrastination) with this blog.

    Sorry to have missed seeing you back here. Maybe in the warmer months when you return. Hugs and Happy Valentines!