Monday, November 24, 2008

Travelin' Light

They say a man's home is his castle, but now, having seen this castle in Naples, I realize my home is FAR from a castle. Like this castle, it sits on the edge of the water, though not quite as close!

But unlike this castle, it is made of wood, and glass; vulnerable to wind and tide. And as I prepare to walk away from it again for a few days, I find myself looking around at my home and its contents, imagining what life might be like if it were to disappear in my absence. And if I had a plastic box, in which I could place those things (not animals, or people) which mean the most to me, what would go in there?

It's a good question to ask, I think -- especially as a photographer. Because it's not really a question about what would cost most to replace; it's really about what is irreplaceable: what, if lost, could never be found again. Which means (to me, anyway) which photographs and photo albums would I save; which works of art; which letters, papers, and books...

In the end, of course, the real question emerges: are any of our possessions THAT important to us? And now that I bump up against that one, I see that I already had to visit that space, when my father died and everything I had grown up with -- books, games, records, china, furniture, tchotchkes, piano, my father's Karmann Ghia, his stamp collection, my grandfather's desk, my grandmother's four poster bed... all of it went to my stepmother. She passed on the family photographs, a quilt my mother had made, two boxes my grandfather had made, and all my mother's paintings, but the rest was gone.

I mourned it for a few years -- especially the books, the records, and the Ghia -- but eventually I learned to let go. And I realize now, looking around me, that there was a life lesson learned in that as well. It is actually possible to live, and to live happily, without "the stuff;" the tangible relics of a life lived in a certain time and space. Not that I wouldn't miss them; not that I wouldn't be devastated to lose so much that has nurtured me over the years. But in the end it would be okay.

Which is probably why now, looking around me, I see that though there's a lot I would miss if this particular castle of ours were to fall into the sea, there's very little I would need to put in that mythical plastic box: our wedding album, the album of photos from our first year on Shaw Island; the piece of glass I brought back from my first trip to Venice... Which is good. I can walk away feeling easy -- especially if I have my laptop full of photos with me!

There's a wonderful old Billie Holiday song that comes to mind as I write: It's called "Travelin Light."

I'm trav'lin' light
Because my man has gone
And from now on
I'm trav'lin' light

He said goodbye
And took my heart away
So from today
I'm trav'lin' light

No one to see
I'm free as the breeze
No one but me
And my memories

Some lucky night
He may come back again
But until then
I'm trav'lin' light

Hearing the lyrics to this song again, I realize that for all the pain and abandonment I felt around my father's death (yes, there is way more to that story), there was in fact a gift (isn't there always?) in the midst of it. Because that man has gone, I'm free as the breeze...

... and travelin' light.

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