Thursday, January 7, 2010


Lately, I've been down on stuff.

By which I mean, I skipped the post-Christmas sales. By which I mean, I skipped the pre-Christmas sales. I did not buy that book in the airport and I am minus a purse that isn't a) a grocery bag or b) silly.

It was the bedbugs that did it. On an online forum, a woman described sitting in her New York apartment thumbing through her books. She perched on the edge of the bathtub, her legs pointed toward the toilet, her arms over the white surface of the bottom of the tub. The white color was important, because then you could see the bugs. She picked up one book and rifled the pages, moving her thumb so that every crease, in turn, was exposed. She picked up the next book and the one after that. She thought: Maybe human beings aren't meant to have stuff.

After I lugged seventeen garbage bags of stuff to the curb, after I heated to killing temperature (114 for bugs, 120 for eggs, at least an hour, subject to debate) two-thirds of the contents of my home, after I encased the mattresses and bagged the toiletries, I thought: The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to defend.

The bugs are gone. It's taken me three months post-treatment to say that, so I may as well say it again. The bugs are gone. But my relationship with stuff remains queasy. I am gathering clothes and books to take to Goodwill. I've already put some tchotchkes out on the curb. And do I really, truly, need that slow cooker?

Yet, I haven't stopped acquiring. I think we're set up to procure. It's a stand-in for the hunting and gathering that kept us alive when we were worm-ridden and running around in skins and didn't give a crap about bedbugs. We're driven to it; it's in our blood.

Purchased thus far in 2010:
  • Barbecued brisket with collards, mashed potatoes, relish, sweet potato pie (eaten, also with relish)
  • Magazine in airport (recycled)
  • Small coffee with craisin biscuit (gone in 60 seconds)
  • Fingerless grey wool gloves (handmade)
I've been drawn, these cold months, to things handmade. If stuff is going to cost me time and energy to defend, if I am going clean it and exterminate it and drag it across state lines, I prefer that stuff to be something someone paid, in time and energy, to make. I want the effort of owning to be balanced by the effort of crafting. I want stuff to play hard(er) to get.

The gloves I bought were knitted by S, who makes beautiful things. The hand-printed postcard in the picture is from L, who, as long as I've known her, has made beautiful things. The postcard is lying on the handmade coffee table my parents gave me for Christmas. It's a beautiful table, dark wood inlaid with light. It took someone hours to make and I am glad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm honored!! But why does the post office put the sticker on the front of the card...hopefully it'll peel off and not rip so you can see the bison nose! And I, too, have a new handmade coffee table from my parents for xmas :) We lead charmed lives…