We hold on to things. Assign to these things, meaning and value. Ticket stubs, photos, magazines, knickknacks. This stuff becomes clutter. Gets in the way of our lives, and yet, we can’t rid ourselves of these things without a twinge of sadness and loss. Absurd, but very real.
My boys are away, and, while their absence leaves a void and I miss them (more than I imagined I would), I wanted to use this time productively, so I have been purging. Tossing unnecessary items. Trimming the fat.
A co-worker recommended a wonderful organization – http://www.books4cause.com/ – that collects books and cds to fill libraries in Africa. I filled up a wagon full of books and cds and joyfully watched them be hauled off by some burly young man, free of charge, to find a new life elsewhere. However, even though I couldn’t tell you now which books or cds I actually gave away, I felt it. That pang of doubt. Wondering if, perhaps, I was giving away something I might miss.
After weeding through old toys, I gave away bags of them to friends and charities. Clothing my children have outgrown or will never wear, I passed on to the same friends and charities. Textiles that were in poor shape I brought to http://www.grownyc.org/ clothing textile recycling on Fridays at the 97th St. Greenmarket.
Then, as I was cleaning out the boys’ room, I found the rocks. Tons of them squirreled away in drawers, boxes, and corners of the room. Various textures and colors, stones glittering with mica, other bits that resembled old chunks of brick and I even found something that looked like a strip of tarmac. What to do with the things? I couldn’t just toss them. Literally, I couldn’t. I set aside the nicest specimens. The mineral clusters that looked special (yes, we’re still talking about rocks) and filled a tote bag full of the more common looking slabs of Central Park granite and other random pieces.
That bag sat by the front door for weeks. Each time, my frustration at seeing that bag of rocks sitting there increased, and yet, I couldn’t bring myself to put the bag in the trash can in the stairwell approximately 3 feet away.
My boys had collected and stashed away these rocks for years. Each rock, no doubt, evoked some emotion in my children and throwing them away seemed akin to tossing my children’s feelings in a bin.
So, on this gorgeous, sunny, humidity-free Sunday to Central Park, I brought my bag of rocks. Feeling extremely self-conscious, I carried them to the “trees,” a sacred cluster of immensely overgrown bushes where my boys have played since they were toddlers, crawling under their branches and climbing their sturdier boughs. There is an outcropping of granite, remnant of the ice age, that bites out from the earth and provides hours of entertainment. Pools of mud collect in the ridges and ledges and, on one edge, a tree stump (see photo) serves, my boys tell me, as a cauldron for magical potions.
I placed the rocks in the stump, ceremoniously removing a discarded bottle cap and a candy wrapper. Aware that a woman was watching me with curious concern, I took out my phone and snapped this photograph, imagining this might somehow lend credibility to my strange actions.
In fact, I do feel peaceful about returning the rocks to the park, although some of those rocks look more like seashells and brick and, as I mentioned, tarmac. Lord knows what I threw away. Just fragments, I remind myself, of my boys’ active imaginary world and aesthetic wanderings.
I tell myself that, in the same way that we should be “mindful” of the items we acquire in life, we owe that same debt of mindfulness when it comes time to release those things. Hoping the rocks enjoy their new digs.
Hoping the boys approve.