As we find ourselves—like it or not—firmly thrust into the new year of 2008—we bid goodbye to the past and look only to the future and what it holds for us. Or do we?
Do we ever really leave the past behind us—or as Paul said in one of his many letters to the early church—forgetting what lies behind, I reach forward to what lies ahead. Or do we just place the memories in a box that we take down off the shelf every once and awhile.
As I look around my computer table I see lots of boxes that I have held onto for many years. Some are filled with cd’s of design jobs I have done in the past. There may be at least a hundred of them and why I keep them is a mystery to me. Do I really need them or will I ever use the contents—collected maps, brochures, menus and so forth from almost another lifetime. In addition, there are boxes filled with teaching tapes, guitar and dulcimer music, hard-to-find cassette tapes, LP’s and copies of articles I wrote during my stint as a newspaper reporter in the early eighties.
I remember when my father passed away several years ago and as the oldest—and perhaps most able—it was my responsibility to fly to California and take care of his car, apartment and belongings. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do—walking into a humanly vacant apartment and beginning to pack up and put into boxes what was left of his life on earth.
There was stuff in every drawer and compartment—from kitchen to bathroom and in between. Pens and pencils and plaques from a lifetime before all saved and seemingly important at some point in his life. I made a mental note at the time that I would not leave this kind of legacy behind me and returned to my mountain home with a resolve to put everything in order and get rid of what I didn’t need anymore.
Well, you know how that kind of thing goes—it lasts for a while and then gets caught up in the daily routine and before you can say “Rumplestiltzkin” you are surrounded by stuff that either had some value when it went onto the shelf or is perceived to have some value in the future—so it is worth hanging onto. Like clothes in the closet you haven’t worn in over a year and end up getting saved and finally clogging up your closet until you can’t fit the things you wear every week or so.
I have often reflected on the lives of men and women in monasteries—people like Brother Lawrence—who are content just to practice the presence of God and leave the rest to everyone outside. As if it were really that easy—they are just as human as we are and probably have some of the same struggles as well crop up in their daily devotions.
As this new year’s train of thought began today I was looking at some black and white photos I had taken back in the early seventies when I lived in Michigan. I fancied myself as a young Minor White and didn’t go anywhere without a big heavy SLR camera around my neck.
The first two photos were taken in Calumet, Michigan during a visit to a friend’s family compound. Michigan’s upper peninsula is very stark during the fall and winter months and can almost seem “moon-like” in some respects.
The next photo was taken in Detroit’s “Greek-Town” during a visit there. I have always liked the photo and have never posted it anywhere. I was really into faces and had a 135 mm lens so I could take candid shots like this one and not be intrusive.
So I guess in saying all of this, my goal for the new year is to embrace the future with care and begin to get rid of some of the stuff that would tend to keep me back or end up being something my son or daughters would have to filter through after my passing. I am looking for light and airy without going Zen and uncluttered and uncomplicated without being irresponsible and un-poetic.
I like artistic clutter but am really looking forward to a life not lived all squished up between the things I own or that end up owning me. ‘Nuff said and enjoy your ride.