I'm trying to pare down my stuff collection. Thinking of it as buying back the space the stuff occupied helps just a little, but it's difficult for me even when all I'm doing is getting rid of recyclables. "Wait, I've used those before! They have utility! What if I recycle all my flyers and don't have anything to clean mirrors with? What if I need to plant basil cuttings!? But I know how to make a really useful tiedown out of this plastic!!"
I'm rolling my eyes at myself and yet it doesn't quiiiite seem to sink through and become emotional reality that this is patent nonsense.
I wonder why it's been so long since I wrote here. I'm going to have to upload it a couple of days late since I'm out of data right now - maybe that's why I'm generating content, because I'm not reading it right now.
I suppose the purpose of a journal is for airing ideas that you aren't convinced others would want to hear, or which aren't yet refined or polished sufficiently to inflict on company just then. I've been spending so little time socially around people, despite my work, that I don't have time for those thoughts in the first place - unlike every occupation I've held to date I have absolutely no time at all to think outside of getting the job done. Fair enough given the way it has to be structured.
We found a Chinese app that's basically a direct rip of Duolingo and I cannot cannot wait to get to a wifi connection and download the thing. If I were smart I'd have sent my laptop as a vanguard of my digital life to download it ahead of me and bring it back to the Wastes of the North.
We got to discussing my apartment tonight. I'm still of conflicted feelings about it; I know I oughtn't spend so much on a routine expense. I know I could go on whole international vacations for what I spend in excess rent every quarter. (I also know that I know how to shop for most things, so that's not so severe as it sounds at first; more in terms of the average person's groceries. But the principle is the same because it is the same measure of power for me personally.)
When my friends moved me in at first we joked about its remoteness, a whopping sixteen miles from the social hub of my boyfriend's place. We said it was in Narnia. I laughed about my Palace-in-the-North, the height, the gates, the grand bright windows. I regretted not being HOME for it more often; still working two jobs and six days most weeks at that point, though that ended quickly after.
More recently I've stopped mythologizing it thus - the palaces of Snow Queens, whichever ones we're discussing, were always the essence of alien remoteness, the more real counterpart to fairylands: the sort of place you might encounter a speaking reindeer or lion and then be obliged to ride them into or out from danger. These were not my native grounds, these wastes of lowland pines and higher barren tundra plains. They didn't feel natural to me, and I didn't realize until now what I was doing when I created it so in my head. I didn't feel welcome to this place, although for the time I knew I held it in my power. I felt I had intruded, boldly, and would before long need to leave, and I less mourned the loss of this particular extravagance than the loss of a sense of haven which I somehow associated with it and it alone.
I've only ever had a few safe spaces in my life, and almost each one I was forced from in some way or another. It seems plausible in retrospect that I would feel confident of being forced from this one, too, before I was ready to go.
But it is a haven for more than the mere absence of malefactors, and is finally becoming valuable to me in an increasingly near, intimate way.
A friend joked about my aerial hobbit-hole tonight as we planned for a party, and I realized it: I have begun to perceive it in line with one of the Tolkien paradigms for "home," albeit not that one. I sense something more grand but less earthy, a bit of a surprise given what I thought I wanted for so long. This is more Imladris, more Rivendell - a lovely place, not a private, personal estate, but an open house. It is not fixed to my precise self, because my precise self is not yet fixed. I am not yet so old or far along in my years to know who that will be or what life she will choose to lead. It is merely a very good place, whether one likes food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all; and merely to be there becomes a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.
The best and most beautiful thing about this sense - this feeling of home - is that it has no real relation to the physical place.
I like this apartment with its beautiful light, but I know I am unlikely to stay here when I can eventually move somewhere more practical. Closer to work, if I have it; closer to the market, closer to the ground. Always where there are trees. Always near running water. But the feeling of home that is beginning to creep into me is intrinsic to myself.
I can carry it with me, and less and less do I need any particular thing to summon the presence of it. A full spice rack the height and breadth of a pantry door helps, as does the fully-stocked pantry, and freezer, and growing, twining, fragrant things in the windows and just outside. But the heart of it is with me. I still 'need' my sketchbooks. I still 'need' the tools of an artist. But less and less do I fear the loss of the little things. Perhaps this is because I am increasingly able to replace them?
There are days, now, for the first time, that if I had to walk from the flames of my former life, there are few things I would carry with me. Records, mostly, of my life and history; my artwork, my pictures. Not possessions. And I could start all over again with fresh new belongings on what I live on in a year, and frankly that's not bad at all.
This is why it surprises me that I am reluctant to give things up. I know increasingly that I shouldn't mind if I lost them, but there's a sense of profligacy that comes with disposing of anything of my own volition, I suppose left over from an era when I was always afraid of not having enough. I still fear that from time to time; I am not SO well off as that.
But a man is rich in proportion to the number of things he is able to let alone.
I have found I can live quite comfortably on very little. Reading, and employment, have led me to realize that a majority of the population spends nearly everything they earn in a year. Given that it is not abnormal for a person of middle income in their prime to make fifty thousand in a year, this means they are spending fifty thousand in a year also, and I have no real sense of where that goes. Rent aside, I can make do quite happily, even luxuriously, on a tenth of that.
(I say this as someone comfortably running a ceiling fan, not having used any air conditioning all year, in mid-July, in north Texas. I recognize this is not considered expected. But I still think my electric bill is high and I suspect my refrigerator is an egregious spendthrift antique, so I have to make up for it somewhere, and it won't be a cold stove.)
Possessions mean less and less, and power means more and more. Low needs mean agility of lifestyle. I could move, if I needed. I recognize the strongest holdovers to this are books. I just finished, finally, my father's ancient copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I would be lying if I claimed it would have meant as much to read an ebook as this yellowed, still-crisp paperback with a ghosted Ex Libris bookplate in the front cover. His copy of Life, the Universe and Everything is priced in British pounds. These things bear significance to me. (For contrast, his copies of The Lord of the Rings are tattered, frayed, and generally much-loved, which I think says something about what we have in common. Though enjoying both, we each tended to prefer solemn, lovely things to silly, clever ones when young.)
These are the things I would strive to preserve. But I'll keep my copies of The Names Upon the Harp and The Song of Mu-Lan if it doesn't pain me to do so.
When home could not be people - most of my life, in fact - home was the things that reminded me of when home had been people. Childlike, those important people were not me. I am, slowly, learning to make home where I am, instead. I think that's why the sketchbooks still matter.
Divorcing identity from possessions is slow and strange, and I keep drawing parallels to giving up a body held too long. Although of course this means something other to me than it might on first glance, in a society that renounces nature for an artificial ideal of humanity. I am not looking to move past physical presence; I'm looking to inhabit it fully, as what I am most fundamentally. Everything right down to clothing is petty superfluous possession. I am an animal with senses and wants and the primary animal ability to take from the world around me all I need, for all animals are predators in honesty.
Increasingly unlike past years I am losing territoriality. I am possessive of things, in the short run. I will snap if my meal is threatened when I am hungry. But I am no longer fixed as I was as child on preserving the exclusiveness of my space. I've given the woods back to the trees, so to speak. The walls around me will not come with me when I leave, and this no longer makes me sad. I just picture the new walls. I picture windows full of light and edged in climbing vines. I see trees outside and roots in soil and think of the garden I could plant and how quickly I could get the basil to overtake a window box and whether there is enough room to try for sweet potatoes.
I think of myself ten years on painting in the light from my bedroom window. Bedrooms are good places for a studio, because then you can keep all your dreams in one place.
I reinterpreted myself in myth and I no longer saw the desperate, peace-loving, forced heroine I always did when I was younger. I never understood why she was what she was. I was too close to my situation to realize that that story was about knowing intuitively what is good and worthy in life and fighting with all one's soul for it, holding out only the barest flickering hope to light the way, and that is what it was to grow up when and where and how I did. I dreamed of dreaded wars and impossible odds and the best of humanity as demonstrated by virtual self-sacrifice for only the chance of salvation for the rest. Nothing beyond that story; the world is given back to itself, and nothing expected to be left of its hero.
I still love these stories, but they are changing in me.
There is something - the story itself - after the noble charge, the grand battle, after the obscuring dust settles on the field, when the sides are not so clearly won and lost, but go back to their plows and mills. It is not simple. This was Morrigan's lesson: First, you must survive.
First, she said. And then what?
First means something follows.
It is not right, but neither entirely wrong, to say this diminishes the intensity of the first arc. The tale of sacrifice and The Hero, Alone, has to be given its own volume and treatment. The rest MUST follow after, a little ways behind, a few short years hence.
The first protagonist must be an innocent in order for the sacrifice to be fit.
Who comes in her place later is someone older, altered, brooding. She has measured the ways of man in the aftermath of the initial sacrifice and is calculating her position accordingly. She is not remembered, if she had a place in the grand battle; she is not recognized as sacrificial or innocent, because those are traits which are solely for benefit of others, and that is not who or what she is, if ever she was.
If the first story was about sacrificial valour for the succor of others, the second tale is about the discovery of one's own values, considerate weighing of one thing against the next: the price of caution, the meaning of ambition, the dearness of self. Not here, the high tales of heroism, but perhaps intrigue. Battles are to be won in the realm of word and principle.
This can be darker or more subtle, depending on the protagonist. She will certainly be seen more powerful if she is willing to be seen as dangerous, which she may be; she is certainly amassing power and resources in quiet ways, not demanding attention but increasingly capable of commanding it all the same. She would have as soon have an army hanging on her word - but will she ever give an order?