It's a combination of family archives, overflowing library, music of every kind, memory lane, and more. MUCH more. Each week increases my happiness in paying taxes as the county collectors magically redirect huge amounts of recycling and trash.
At first the house felt overwhelming. All I could see was millions of individual things and papers, all I could hear was each of them begging to be a clue to my deeper understanding of the people who lived here.
Some individual things are, indeed, treasures. Two half-written letters explain depths of one sister. A gloriously appliqued skirt glows with the vitality of my other sister. The furniture my father made, the tools he used, his Army trunk, communicate values he lived. My mother's one-page memory-note after my father died shares volumes of love.
There are many things of beauty. Many more carry wonderful memories.
But the clutter itself -- that has also become precious. Months of work (thank you, husband and friends!) make its patterns clear. What did they love? What did they hold onto? What is notably absent? How did they try to manage so much stuff? One by one, they are telling me stories as surely as if they were speaking.
Of course I think of Richard Wilbur's wonderful poem, "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World." In these family things, the "air is all awash with angels." And yes, "the soul shrinks / From all it is about to remember." I'm grateful for the many months of touching the objects of their lives, the tactile profusion that becomes large enough for my soul to step into its solidity and its emptiness. In the end there is room only for empathy, for a love made simple because it has been immersed in complexity, as I honor their "pure floating/ Of dark habits, / keeping their difficult balance."
Like all of us, each of them was different in their ways of floating, in their habits, in their balance. The clutter has become a mosaic, sparkling now in October light.
What I've written may not make sense yet, or at least not to anyone but me. But, as I have neglected this blog and much else, it is this slow and privileged work through which I'm building. What am I building? That remains to be discovered.
Artwork "Home Sweet Home" by Amy Lake, in her 7/15/2014 blog post "Upcycle Art with Clutter"