Signs of Life

05/05/2011

a sign

Urgency Day 112

500 Things Item 388: Secretary Desk

  • History: Family piece
  • Value: I think the Antiques Roadshow people would demur
  • Parting Pain: Only in the shipping
  • Un-possessing: A gift

Stop deep breath listen

When you read those words, where did you put the commas? Did you put commas?

Even in the very clutter-free world toward which I am working, there will still be commas. Commas are simply pauses. In fact, I think I will have a few more pauses in the clutter-free world, because I will have more time.

Less time managing my clutter. More time experiencing my life.

Uber-organizer Peter Walsh defines clutter as “anything that gets between you and the life you want to live.” (Natural Healing 3/10. 74) I think this is an enlightening statement.

Clutter is subjective.

I was in my garden yesterday with a young friend who was helping me pull some weeds. He asked what a weed was. I offered him the classic definition: “A weed is anything growing where you don’t want it to grow.” He paused, and– smart six-year-old cookie that he is– he asked, “So if you didn’t want a rose bush right here, it would be a weed?”

“Yes, Luke. Even a rose bush can be a weed.”

We both paused, mid-weed pull, and breathed deeply. Then we both cracked up at breathing so deeply at the exact same time. Six-year olds are great levelers.

The sweet desk I am gifting today has become a weed to me. It is clutter. But, when I offered it to my niece, Laura, she was thrilled. As a newly-minted, first-time home owner, it isn’t clutter to her at all. It’s a sign of starting a new life.

Signs of life. Every scratch, every dent, every nick and scrape on the desk represents a moment of engagement. Even if the engagement was only to catch my mail or store Sam’s music or hold a vase of roses from my garden, there was a purpose. But the desk has long since been replaced as a mail catcher, a music stand, a room brightener. At one time, I was so pleased to have it, and now I am even more pleased to give it to Laura.

I wrote about Laura last year, on this same day, May 5th, Laura’s birthday. Laura is a force of nature who is off right now having adventures, experiencing life. I hope this old desk will brighten her new life. It can’t even hint at the dazzling brightness she has brought to mine.

At one time, this desk held a box of my most beloved pictures. One is a picture of baby Laura, at the beach, delicately handing me a sand crab. But the picture captures the moment just before she places the treasure in my hand. We are paused, forever, in the moment just before. I’ve stared at this picture so often, I can conjure every sound and every smell, and remember experiencing the magic of a small, wondrous life.

Stop, deep breath, listen.

Happy birthday, Laura

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6 Responses to “Signs of Life”

  1. kara Says:

    Very sweet post. I’ve been turning to your blog often as I try to get through our clutter. I just need to figure out how to get A on board. Clutter to him is just future art projects!

    • sthibeault Says:

      Exactly! Andrew’s definition of clutter is different from ours. Paul could live with a mattress in the corner and “Ring Around the Rosie” on the wall. But even his profound minimalism requires art. (That’s one reason I love him so much.)

  2. Donna Says:

    Truly (comma)if one had to pick ten iconic photos from our family albums (comma)this one would make final cuts. I love Laura. I love you. I love you together. I even love the crab. I don’t know if you remember the Andy Williams version of the song that included the lyrics “turn around and you’re two, turn around and you’re four, turn around and you’re a young girl going out of the door” — that’s the song that’s playing in my head as I look at that picture.

  3. Donna Says:

    If I could recall my blog and fix my “yours” I would. I guess the tears in my eyes affected my brain. Ooops!

    • sthibeault Says:

      Done. It’s an “oops” I’m particularly sensitive to, since I make it all the time. I always think of Ross at that moment: “y-o-u-‘-r-e means you are.” Ah, Friends.

  4. melanie Says:

    Oh my gosh. So sweet.


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