"I called this book _The Things That Matter_ because if it is about nothing else, it's about how the prints on our wall and the rough-hewn rocks we swiped from the Marfa farmers' market give our everyday lives shape, texture, and a sense of who we are, who we've been, and where we may be heading."
By now the library knows I like design books and books by designers, and one day it's recommending Nate Berkus's book, The Things That Matter. Sure, I think, looking for something to start on my lunch hour, I like his stuff.
At first I read about his childhood and how he started his career and this sweet vacation with his boyfriend in Southeast Asia and then suddenly I realize I had completely forgotten his boyfriend was killed by the tsunami while they were on vacation there.
He compresses the entire event into probably a dozen pages: the vacation is wonderful and then everything is awful and then is the long and painful recovery. It took me the better part of two hours to get through them, as I was trying not to cry at my desk but every time I distracted myself successfully I went back to it. Because I like to Suffer, I guess.
The book as a whole is about people and their relationships to things. After talking about how his relationships with things shaped his life and his design and his grief, he moves on to talking about the spaces and the things that belong to other people in his life, what they love and why, and how that love makes them beautiful.
I used to have my grandmother's hope chest. It was one of those midcentury Lane cedar chests, and I was lucky to get it when we cleaned out Grandma and Grandpa's house before my mom and her sister could sell it. I loved that thing but ended up giving it back to my parents when I moved west - I didn't have a good way to manage it myself and I didn't want to send it ahead to my now-ex.
Now, of course, it's on the other side of the country and I don't even want to know what it would cost to ship, but I think about it sometimes. I have other things from my grandparents - a jar of Grandma's buttons, two of Grandpa's folding knives, a crochet blanket from Yaya's bed, a stepstool I remember loving as a child, even the quilt Grandma made me - but I feel distant and disconnected, and hope chest is the symbol of that. Not that I'd be closer if I had but, but that it would be easier if I were closer.
Of course, some things would be harder, too. Where I'm meant to be is here, for better and for worse.
Things are just things, they're not my memories, of course... but as a tool-using witch, I know there is value in being able to store energy outside of myself. I charge a wand, I charge a candle. I store things in Evernote and Google. Why not place some of those complicated feelings in things external to myself? I don't need the little velvet box my namesake gave me when I was a young teen, but I miss it. I miss being able to pick those memories and feelings up when I wanted them, and put them down again.
It's nice, being able to set things down sometimes.
I don't have any new personal dead this year, but I've been thinking a lot about Anthony Bourdain this week. I don't associate him with food, particularly, but I see him as a sort of patron saint of *ghosti- of the relationship between host and guest, of the power of the new friend and the story told, the warm welcome, of listening and making people feel seen. The food is a tool, the relationship is the goal.
I can see something of Odin in Bourdain - of Ganglari, the wanderer, who is the face I know best. And Bourdain certainly knew something of madness as well.
The black mark in my mind looks at him and says, see, it only takes one bad day. This could be you. This will be you.
But I can look at all the things I've set down and see him for the liar that he is. There were many bad days, and many good days, before the one that was too much. I've set down some good things, so I can't lose them in the black, and I've set down some bad ones, so I don't need to carry them anymore. But they're there, and I'm here, and staying is a choice I intend to keep making.
I may honor the Hunt but I am not ready to go with it. Even when I worry I've lost all the good things, I can look around me and know that's not true. I have my Yaya's blanket, and my Grandpa's knives, and my Grandma's buttons. I have handknit socks and a child's artwork. I have the love carried in all of these things.
I give my thoughts to the Dark, and she will keep them for me, and she will know me, and she will show me what I need. The harvest is over and the offerings are taken and the candles are low.
Happy samhain. May you find what you've lost.