I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Things

Last night, courtesy of my friend Anne, we watched the director's cut of Lord of the Rings. Much longer, and much more coherent and emotionally satisfying as a narrative than the commercial release, though if the third one has any more of Sam I doubt I'll be quite so thrilled: what an annoyingly abject character he is, with his "Mr Frodo". (I thought we were being told to disapprove of the hobbit class hierarchy with the jibe at the Sackville-Bagginses, and all.)

Anyway. As one after another character's eyes glazed over at the sight of the ring, I started thinking about the talkback radio I'd heard the other day. It was bushfire-awareness day on the ABC, as Victoria starts to count down for the next fire season, coming way too quickly on the heels of the last. I don't know how many times I've heard Christine Nixon explain to people who complain about how slowly things are happening that many people are still in the grip of post-traumatic stress, and can't be hurried to make decisions. At the same time, it's becoming clear that if last February's conditions are repeated this year — and there's every expectation they will be — that the only safe thing for many people to do is to leave, and not stay and (heroically) "defend" their property. But with many towns in the hills, there is just one road out. How easy it would be for those roads to become blocked.

Anyway. Richard Stubbs was discussing the difficulty of cleaning up your property, and sorting out what you would take if you had to evacuate in a hurry, and started coaxing callers who were hoarders to phone in. Not that they identified themselves as such, but there were a number of calls from slightly puzzled folk who said yes, they did have lots of piles of papers in the house, but that it was possible to walk a path through from one room to another, and was that really a problem? Another said a friend had volunteered to help him go through the piles of papers on his dining-room table, but that it would take a while, because he had to look at every piece first before deciding if it could go. Some huge proportion of house fires, it turns out, are in the homes of hoarders.

And then I read Jeffrey's post about going through most of the household items before a temporary move, and giving and throwing things away.

And I think about my son, who buys lost of his clothes from second-hand and charity shops, but now makes a point of trying to take something back whenever he goes shopping.

So. I am at least going to clean up my study today. I do try not to keep papers, but I have 6 filing cabinet drawers at home, and 16 in the office. When I go back to work next year, I'm going to get rid of at least one four-drawer set: I can't possibly need all that stuff. I'm going to do a clean-out of my wardrobe, soon, too (although now that I am in my new gym routine, there are a number of items that will soon graduate into the "wearable" category).

But it's hard not to love beautiful things. I have a ridiculous affection for pretty cups, plates and saucers; I love the jewellery I have collected, and that has been given to me, over the years. I love the convenience of my books, but as objects and vehicles of ideas, they are mostly replaceable. If I think of a fire going through the house, though, which of my personal possessions would I want to take? The computer (or the hard drive back-up); two drawers of Garter files, which would be very hard to replace; the photo albums (maybe: so long as my family were safe I wouldn't mind so much); and my jewellery. And apart from the house itself, which we have laboured long and hard on, what would grieve me most to lose? I think it would be the piano. Which is irrational, because if our insurance ran to it, it would be replaceable. But it was one of the hardest things to buy and to commit to, and is one of the most beautiful things in the house. And the thought of all that finely wrought wood going up in flames is quite shocking.

Of course, we are not in a fire zone. But then, that's what a lot of people think...

What would you would find hardest to lose?


elsewhere said...

Cats...followed by artwork...followed by photos.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Exactly what Elsewhere said, except that I'm not sure cats count as things.

stray said...

Anything you would be stuffing into a pillow case in a dead panic counts as a "thing" for the duration of the crisis.

Anonymous said...

Someone I know lost EVERYTHING they owned in the firestorm. Had she and her daughter been there at the time, they would have died. Subsequently she found a glass fragment of a Lalique dish in the ashes. She was making it into a brooch, a precious treasure. Lucy Sussex

Dean Martin said...

we lost a weekend cottage in the fires, and it is the loss of the truly irreplaceable that lingers---the rug I knitted from wool spun by my mother, a lyrebird feather found by my father-in-law 80 years ago, a present from a friend who is no longer a friend.These all had such reconance, such history--and the stories and memories formed part of the family history for our children, as well. But we know we are the lucky ones. How do people manage who lose it all--family,home, possessions, history and country.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

I don't think I could ever miss our piano (it made the move with us), but I would miss the music my kids make. I don't love the object in that case, but then again I can't play.

The object I would miss the most is a little orange haired troll that I've had since I was ten. My grandparents bought it for me in a drugstore in Bangor Maine; I chose it because he looked forlorn. Alex is in charge of him now. His name is Lucky. Katherine carries around a small version we found at a yard sale, Lucky Junior. They are ugly and insignificant, no doubt worthless, but my heart would break if they dodn't travel with us.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

PS My favorite object poem.

frog said...

We had to think about this last year - houses were lost not twenty minutes drive from us and we're towards the end of a suburban train line. Our evacuation plan includes the sensible box full of documents and photos but as stray said, it's the pillow case in a dead panic that captures what means most to us.

And I can see myself taking that latest drawing or construction the kids have made, a knitting project, my husband's Rickenbacker bass. The drawings are such a point in time object; the knitting a touchstone for me and a thing of love for the recipient; and the bass because we wouldn't have the family we have without his music.

Stephanie Trigg said...

It's all a bit odd, isn't it? I love the story of Lucy's friend's Lalique brooch (and also the aura of glamour that surrounds the word Lalique — a place (and a time?) so different from the Victorian inferno of last year. I also like Jeffrey's troll; and frog's interest in what is current, and what is handmade.

But it made me think of objects I have known. I remember visiting my grandmother when she lived in a little bedsit in Moonee Ponds. We would have fig "pillow" biscuits and lemonade; she would give us the small coins (farthings and pennies) she said were too heavy for her purse, and we would look at her treasures: an autoharp that is now in my mother's house; a pink peachsilk scarf I wrapped my violin in for many years; and an ornately carved sandalwood fan that my aunt had brought her from Hong Kong, I think. I don't know where that fan is, but forty-five years later, it was in my memory when I bought my own lace fan in Venice last month. So even though that object was lost to time many years ago, it still generated love, and familial memories of my aunt (still alive, I'm glad to say) and my grandmother.

These stories also reminded me of a story my friend R told me, of a man in Tasmania whose house was ravaged by bushfire. He carefully rescued a shoebox full of precious photographs, only to discover later that he had got the wrong box, and had retrieved, instead, a box full of condoms. Go figure!

Pavlov's Cat said...

A shoebox full of condoms? Quel optimist!