Wednesday, January 7, 2009


On our porch are the stacks of boxes I hauled from North Carolina this summer in a U-Haul. What does one do with such things? I have old reel-to-reel family films from the 1950s. Boxes of old photos of my mother and my father when they were young and beautiful and so in love. Pictures of my mother in her 20s when she dyed her hair red and wore high heels and flirted with the young male photographer who was her husband at the time. Photos of my sister, cute, the darling of my family. Pictures of me, big feet, big teeth, big hands. Big black plastic bags enclosing my father's paintings, memories of his Wisconsin and Danish childhoods. Twenty five years of my own drawings, sketches, finished pen and inks, oil paintings. Boxes of mismatched cutlery, a gas stove, my mother's tool box. My chainsaw from home, the one that nearly cut off Lisa's leg and which still has dried blood clinging to the bar. Old Christmas decorations from my mother's house, her unfinished crismons. Scarred furniture from my Bold Moon home, some cheap and scavenged from the local Goodwill store, some handmade and handsome. A box of letters my sister and I wrote to our parents in the 1960s when we were sent away to boarding school. My mother's sewing machine, the world map with pins placed on all of the places that she visited in her life. A tall box with pots and pans, no lids, as my sister somehow ended up with a box of lids, but no pots. A wooden trunk, which I don't remember owning, but which somehow ended up at Bold Moon in the 1990s. Daddy's desk, bought secondhand from one of the old textile mills in North Carolina, which served as his first desk at his own business, then was a secretary's desk, then mine since 1976. Daddy's drawing table, the chair where he sat for hours and hours and hours as he painted and drew and wrote as a way to escape my mother, his wife, his life with her. The table is dismembered, parts here and there, the chair too high for my taste. Three books of my typed poetry from high school; chronicles of my first loves and first heartbreaks. Boxes of my dishes from Bold Moon, one-of-a-kind flowered plates collected since 1975, three of them from Hong Kong. Somewhere among the boxes, a handwritten draft of my father's last life project: a history of Western Europe as told from his own 89-year old eyes.

What does one do with these things from our past? The boxes nestle under blue tarps, and I notice that at least one has squirrel prints on it. Do we leave them out on the porch until things rot, moulder, become dusty, squirrel-eaten, their stuffings and edges scavenged by mice? Do we unpack them, integrate them into our contemporary lives, ignore the moth-bitteness, the flyspots, the musky scent of the past clinging to them? What do our current lovers think of these boxes that document past passions, spent exuberance, that smell of despair and bitterness? And what about the things that somehow got left behind? There are two family genealogies, a file about the origins of Bold Moon, a hundred LPs of the very first women's music, the Second Wave. The arrowhead and stone chip and stone ax I found at Bold Moon, the ones that the land called out to me to find. The photo of my great grandmother, my namesake. I once did ritual with this photo, on a lonely winter solstice in 1992, when I looked long and deep at the photo and thought I saw my own image in this long dead ancestor. But she is not among the boxes on the porch.

Good friends, good lovers, good companion animals have left our planet and continued on their journey. Should I send these things, these old things on their journey, too? I am tempted to build a winter bonfire, to heap the desk, the photos, the drawing table, the paintings, the things hauled up the Alaska Highway onto the blaze. To sit back and to relish my current life and to watch my past, my parents' past, my Bold Moon past, go up in smoke.

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