I’ll admit it: I am a terrible pack rat. I have whole stacks of scrawled-upon Post-It notes stuck inside notebooks, matchbook covers and business cards, cards from friends and students, shiny things I’ve found on a morning walk: and it builds up. Quickly. I saw my latest move as a way to amend my pack rat ways, and began unsticking the unimportant Post-Its, tossing out the less shiny shiny things, sorting through the matchbook covers and filing away the business cards. Soon, cleaning out developed almost into an obsession. Moving became a mode of metamorphosis for me, and the shedding of physical objects like the shedding of the cocoon.
Though both are not things I do very often, or very successfully, the idea of cleaning out and of metamorphosis have always inhabited the same psychological place in my mind. When I started reading about Kriya yoga, I was particularly drawn to the way the yogis connected the same things: in order to move on, we must rid ourselves — physically, psychologically, spiritually — of the clutter of our pasts. At the same time, we must periodically rid ourselves of the clutter of ours pasts in order to cleanse ourselves, to make sure that we move on.
Simply put: I got rid of a lot of shit when I moved. I’ve found myself a little thrown off by the disappearance of objects, and the absence of all of the clutter, but, at the same time, freed: empty space means possibility. Creative possibility. Empty space can be filled with anything. Of course, it’s difficult to explain this to my two cats, who have spent most of the past few weeks sniffing around the fake-vinyl-hardwood-floor and waiting for it to morph into carpet and spring a couple of familiar chairs and, for the love of God, some of the knickknacks they loved to knock over so much.
But there are some things that I didn’t throw out, and, in unpacking and organizing and decorating and re-organizing and re-decorating, I’ll sometimes come across an object and look at it for a while, wondering how and why it survived the purge. One such object is this little lantern which had, in Georgetown, become the epitome of Stuff I Really Do Not Need And Is Just Cluttering Up The Place as it sat on the top of a shelf in my bathroom, useful only in gathering dust. During one of several attempts to organize my guest/study/writing room, it ended up on the table I use as a writing desk, and it somehow stayed there through several more attempts, even the attempt which resulted in my finally cleaning off the writing desk to actually, well, write.
And then I looked over at it. The panes of blue-green glass held the light, and inside of it, cast shadows and patterns and designs which shifted when I shifted. The light changed as the light that came out of the window changed, and so did the shadows cast inside. I realized that here, in this different place, it was a very different object. I also realized what made it so beautiful: I had never before opened the door.
I am going to resist turning this into a metaphor, because it would be both too easy and too difficult. I’m just going to say instead that it was beautiful, the glass and how it caught the light.