Invitation to an Inventory

Posted: May 14, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

I’m moving at the end of May, so I spend a small amount of time each morning packing a box or two. I am not going far; I found another apartment Logan Square, approximately seven blocks away. Nevertheless, the process of moving has been revelatory. The first observation for all movers is the same: I have more stuff than I thought.  As I slowly pack, carefully wrapping things and nestling them according to similarity of purpose and placement, the boxes have begun to pile up, and I still have more stuff. I don’t even own much, really. I certainly don’t own things of much value, except the sentimental kind.  Moving forces individuals to confront their relationship with their possessions, and I am pleased to see how my things beautifully align with the life I have chosen.

Like most American women, I own entirely too many articles of clothing. However, the clothes I own are inexpensive, enabling me to rationalize buying more than I need and buying from thrift stores ensures that no one else will be wearing the same thing. I have already packed most of my considerable scarf collection. There are two segments of the scarf collection, the winter variety, at least fifty scarves that range in size, color, and pattern, including special scarves handmade for me by Ruthie, my brilliant friend from graduate school; Jackie Couch, my best friend’s mom; and other crafty friends Ingrid and Hanna.  The non-winter variety includes another fifty whimsical, colorful bits of fabric, many gifts from friends who recognize scarves as my accessory of choice because they are unique and appealing and make any outfit infinitely more fabulous.

A growing number of boxes are filled with items for cooking, baking, and entertaining. Even though I live alone, I have (mismatched) service for 12 or more in order to feed as many people as will fit in my modest apartment. I grew up in a crowded, rowdy house, and can think of no better definition of home than a small space overflowing with people and laughter. My incomparable book club cycles through my place twice per year. I host brunches and dinners for my Urban Family on designated holidays and birthdays, and just for the hell of it. I cherish oddities, a fair amount of serving “fish dishes” and accessories shaped like fish (I like rhyming). The best example are gifts from Leah, twin fish salt and pepper shakers, and a completely adorable and utterly inaccurate set of fish-shaped measuring spoons that are the mysterious secret behind my perfectly salty chocolate chip cookies.

City_Lights_BookstoreI have beloved books, and plenty of them. I love books, but not all books are worth the trouble it takes to lift and lug them across states, or even around the corner. I keep the countless books I have received as gifts, specially selected for me by my tremendously thoughtful friends and family. I buy a book every time I travel, being careful to select a title meaningfully tied to the place. On my recent trip to San Francisco, I visited City Lights Books and bought a poetry anthology from its own publishing imprint. I have inscribed copies of all the books written by Dan Chaon,a phenomenal writer who was my professor in graduate school. Books comprise a majority of my possessions, which seems reasonable to me.

The last major segment of my possessions consists of works of art, relatively inexpensive art, but art nonetheless. As I eagerly anticipate hanging them on new walls, it occurs to me that these things are the most prized. I have wonderful souvenirs from my travels, a Huicholi yarn drawing from my trip to Puerta Vallarta. Austin Kleon’s  work wowed me online, and bought one of his limited edition “Newspaper Blackout Poems.” Chicago festivals are a treasury of local artists, including Jay Ryan. I’m incredibly lucky to know artists. My dear, old friend, Emily made me two fantastic pieces, and gave me one more. I bought a marvelous reclining nude hand-drawn by the wonderfully creative Chas Appleby, my former student and forever friend. Matt Schlagbaum knows he owes me a work of art, too. All this art makes my walls sing.

Despite all the trouble and strain, moving affords the chance to look carefully at the stuff of life. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll discover you are very rich indeed.

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