Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sorting through (a hiking story, sort of)

I've been slowly moving back into my cabin. As I haul rubbermaid containers inside and open them, I am amazed: all of this stuff. And I thought I got rid of a lot of stuff when I moved out! Living in a thousand square foot house with no real closets, I probably have a lot less than most people. Still, it's way too much.

Why is it so hard to get rid of stuff? I had hardly anything most of my life: if it couldn't fit in a Chevette, it wasn't going. Then when I left Alaska I banished almost everything: all of my furniture, most of my possessions. I liked traveling light. But in the last eight years, things have slowly crept in. I am ruthless this time: out it goes!

I laugh when I see some of the items. The array of hair potions, trying to tame what hypothyroidism has done to a formerly glossy mane (it's not pretty). I have ziplock bags of unidentifiable pills (Tylenol PM? Aspirin?). I obviously store my fears, because my medicine cabinet is heavily weighted toward blister prevention. As far as clothes, I have hung on to "office wear", just in case I ever return to one (it's doubtful, but you never know where life will take you). I can't seem to part with my XtraTuf Alaska rubber boots or my storm kayaking jacket. Maybe doing so would admit that part of my life is really over. It is over, but maybe, I think, there's a piece of that woman who did those things that I don't want to let go.

I finally couldn't take it anymore. It was time to hike. I held no illusions that I would get to Ice Lake; tales of waist deep snow elsewhere abounded. If I could just go ten miles, I thought. Maybe that would smooth out some rough edges (life has been pretty complex lately).

I hurried through all the old landmarks: the wilderness boundary sign, the place where the trail rides turn around, the first campsite for those who overestimate their fitness. I crossed the bridge and headed up toward the basin. A storm was coming in, with lots of snow and 40 mile an hour winds. I knew I had to beat it.

Strangely enough, there was only a skiff of snow. I was going to make it all the way! Giggling with happiness (yes, I am a dork), I arrived at the lakeshore to find gale force winds and a lake churning with whitecaps.

Ok, YOU try to take a selfie in 40 mph winds.
It's interesting how the moods of a place can change so fast. In summer this lake feels almost tame and hospitable. You can go swimming. (of course, "summer" at almost 9,000 feet is really only two months max). Now, it felt like a place where humans should not stay. Looking over the peaks, I saw a ragged hem of clouds approaching--the storm. High on Sacajawea, mountain goats roamed, seemingly indifferent to the gale force winds.


Stuffing a bagel into my mouth, I raced down to safer ground. The entire 16 mile hike would be done without breaks. As a result I hobbled back into the house, flopping dramatically on the couch. Nobody was too impressed. The chores still awaited, an army of containers with too much stuff. Tomorrow, J informed me, we would have to go cut wood. In the snow. Because, we could buy wood, but that would make us soft, I decided.

I stared at the detritus of my life. There was my wedding ring from my former marriage. Though the marriage was awful, the ring was pretty. I started to toss it, then reconsidered. I can hang on to it a little longer. Maybe I'll have it made into a necklace. Not as a reminder of someone who treated me poorly, but because I survived it and came out stronger. Or really, does everything have to have meaning? Maybe it's just a nice ring.
Some things you just have to hang onto until you are ready to let them go.


16 comments:

  1. Thankfully the memories of your hike don't have to be discarded, just added too.
    I found that the longer something is in a box, the less I want / need it, when it is finally unearthed. Happy wood cutting. Sounds a fun exercise from where I am sitting.

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    1. I agree, I left some stuff in boxes to rest that theory. Wood cutting was cold and miserable but not terribly so. And my house is warm.

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  2. My goodness, I just love that picture down the canyon and all the golden trees.
    I would have loved to have gone on that hike with you, instead I was cleaning out some of my cabinets. The Tupperware one was awful, sent so much stuff to recycle.

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    1. Luckily my kitchen is so small that nothing really can invade it. Other items however...the cords for unknown devices!

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  3. Yeah, I have 28 years worth of stuff in my home and I need to start getting rid of the clutter. But, I'd much rather spend my time hiking than cleaning closets!

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    1. Same here, but I'm glad I was forced to. It feels good to clear it out.

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  4. I am definitely with you on the stuff topic. It will paralyze me if I let it. I try to be ruthless, but then there are things I can't just let go.

    What I realize is that as soon as we have space, we fill it. We've been living out of this 200 sq foot cabin in NM now for a year and once we leave, we will definitely need a moving truck versus our tiny car. How the heck did that happen????? Boo.

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    1. OK now I feel like a wuss saying that five pets, my husband and my home office won't fit in 1000 square feet while we are building. 200 square feet! That's tiny.

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  5. You might want to hang on to the old XtraTuf boots. When the new owner move manufacturing to China, quality became horrible. I think it's better now, but I bet still not as good as what you already have.

    Tom
    Fairbanks

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    1. I heard that about XtraTufs--bummer! I still wear mine sometimes. And if I see someone in town wearing them, I leap over and ask where in AK they lived.

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  6. I smiled at your list of stuff, especially the baggies of pills and the hair potions. I recently bought an expensive bottle of anti-thinning shampoo. Do I actually believe it's going to work? No.

    Good luck with the culling. Recently I've been pondering what I'd grab in the event of a wildfire and 30-minute-or-less evacuation order. My mountain bike. The expedition fat bike. My bin of old newspapers, momentos, photo albums and journals. Laptop. Passport and birth certificate. Camera and a few electronics if there's time. Beat would have a lot more stuff he'd want to rescue, but as far as I'm concerned, the rest can burn.

    So I think in terms of letting go of attachments. Of course, to be actually tested on this would be a different matter.

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    1. I saw a picture of myself from pre-thyroid days and was saddened. My two braids now are the size of one back then. Let me know if that shampoo works. Let's see, in our actual Level 2 evac (luckily not a 3), I grabbed computer, old family photos, bikes, and some random items of clothing. I realized there really wasn't that much that was important. Completely forgot about birth certificate and passport.

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  7. Stuff! ugh. We have so much stuff in storage, and most in cardboard boxes that we haven't opened in years. So much of it can go I'm sure, but making the time to go through it and then the hassle of disposing of it is daunting as well.
    I do ascribe meaning to things even if I don't want to. I couldn't have kept anything from a past relationship, no matter how pretty, it would always be a reminder of something I didn't want to be reminded of. I guess I'm not someone who, for the most part, can't let an object just be an object - the emotional charge connected to it is just too strong.

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    1. I don't keep much from past relationships either. I can't explain the ring. Maybe because the marriage was so meaningless, this sounds harsh, but it didn't feel like a marriage? Don't know. I still have way too much stuff even after another purge.

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  8. Looks like a beautiful hike even with the 40 mph winds. Isn't it weird how the winds and storms transform a place so completely compared to summer.

    The subject of getting rid of stuff goes so deep. Just when I finally got my belongings pared down to fitting into my civic for the past two moves this summer, my parents brough me a few boxes of stuff they'd been storing. My lab notebooks from grad school were easy to toss. But I had trouble with the pretty things too. Especially a lovely cream wool blanket that I got as a present 20 years ago, even though it will take up half my trunk. At least I have a few months before I move again, and in the meantime I'm going to see what it's like to have a pretty, impractical thing around.

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    1. Ah, the parents do eventually appear with stuff of yours. I guess they don't want to store it forever, who knew? Keep the blanket, it sounds gorgeous.

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