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What I'm Keeping

Well, I returned from North Carolina this past Tuesday afternoon, rolling into Albuquerque in Roadcinante, my daughter and son-in-law behind me in my maroon Honda Element, Merletta. Both vehicles were loaded with belongings that have been sitting in storage since I left those sweet mountains in December of 2019.


The challenge presented by the limited space in two vehicles containing three people and one large dog forced me to yet again go through all my possessions with a stern eye. I've actually been getting rid of stuff for years, beginning with emptying my house for renters in 2016 while I took off on a quest to chase light and see what kind of faith was on the other side of doubt.


This latest culling has resulted in more donations to thrifts stores, more items passed on to my kids, more releasing things I no longer need. It has been joyful, clarifying work that has led to a good deal of slow, steady transition I'm still in the middle of, and I don't think I'm alone in whatever this cellular-level shifting is.


What I'm keeping:

  • My father’s Eagle Scout ring in its dusty, velvet-lined box.

  • The dark blue Ugg shearling boots, even though they are stained on the outside and matted on the inside.

  • Three drapey scarves: the one the color of French vanilla ice cream that is sheer net with fringe, the rose and blue one that still smells like my old perfume from back when I wore perfume, and the black and red plaid one that I’ve still never worn but am still convinced I might someday.

  • The conviction that death isn’t the end.

  • The small blue fabric bag with the gold pins of paired birds my father gave my mother — the one with the tiny nest and a wee pearl of an egg, the one with two birds with little ruby eyes, and the one with two birds with small emeralds for eyes. (“Because,” he’d told her, “we are a couple of odd birds.”)

  • My enormous copy of Jung’s The Red Book and the normal-sized companion book that is bound in something that is supposed to be red leather and that looks and feels for all the world like a Book of Worship.

  • I’m keeping the woo-woo that emanates from the The Red Book, because it is juicy as all get-out.

  • I'm keeping the old notebook in which I've recorded my dreams over the years.

  • Hope for a better world; hope for health and happiness for those I hold most dear; hope that love might come again.

  • The creamy, frothy ankle-length sweater I bought in Norway.

  • Handwritten notes and cards from my mother and my father, her hurried scrawl and his fine hand, the dried ink on the paper still somehow delivering their actual voices into my brain and the love and friendship that came with them.

  • My oval non-stick glass baking dish.

  • Jesus (most days I think God can go suck an egg, but somehow Jesus just won’t let me be, even though I am way outside the faith box now).

  • My heavy-duty glass bottles for brewing kombucha.

  • The large painting I bought in Nicaragua, the ochre and brown and tan and olive green still life of cut-open squashes and avocados and pale flowers and dark heavy-looking pitchers.

  • My ongoing astonishment at the insistence of life, how carrots in the refrigerator keep growing leaves and putting forth hair-fine roots, how a seed can lie dormant for years and then sprout and grow, how just when you think it’s over, something brand new sneaks up on you.

  • My collection of all 25 of Sue Grafton’s fabulous alphabet mysteries, and in the box next to her books the dog-eared manuscript of the mystery novel I started 19 years ago, sorta kinda finished 14 years ago, and then set aside, not sure what to do next. I keep the memory of Sue’s notes from the first 50 pages she read — that the tone and pacing were good, that I’d made a good start. That I got "eleventy-ninety pats on the back" for being brave and sharing it. “I assume you know where you are going with this,” she wrote. I didn’t then, the plot still fuzzy, but I might be starting to now.

  • The four cotton sack kitchen towels, clean and white and sheer, to add to the dozen I already have, because I honestly don’t foresee how I can have too many.

  • My grandmother’s porcelain pitcher, painted with dainty flowers, that sat on the antique cherry table next to her beige patterned sofa, the one I kept putting my dirty twelve-year-old feet on back in the brick house that perched on a hill on Gresham Road in Louisville, Kentucky.

  • The freedom to complain about faith, about God and church, and to question and doubt without apology or shame.

  • The deeply-felt impulse to lean full-on with an open heart into the possibility of signs and wonders.

Since my story appeared in the Huffington Post, I've heard from dozens of others on a similar journey of reordering. Last week I had a lovely, lively conversation with Ken Kemp. Ken is a former pastor, too, who's been on his own journey, and in coming weeks he'll be interviewing me for his podcast over on The Beached White Male. More to come on that. Have a great weekend, everyone!




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