It’s the final hours of 2017 and I’m listening to the soft breathing of my husband and (not-so-soft breathing) dog as they snooze, competing for space on the couch.
We are all worn out. The dog got multiple walks in snow that balled up in between the pads of her feet. My husband rode his bike on snow-covered backroads and shoveled the long driveway at the cottage multiple times, ensuring we don’t get stuck here tomorrow when we go to leave. I got to use the snowshoes that replaced an old, broken pair last winter (but never got used because the snow stayed away), snow-shoeing for nearly three hours on a deserted lunar-landscape of a beach. I shot my last two rolls of film for the year–one 120mm slide film, something I’ve never shot before and an expired Ilford SFX 35mm, opting for a red filter and again, a risk as I haven’t explored that kind of film before.
It’s New Year’s Eve and we sure know how to party.
There’s a fire in the fireplace, my feet just inches away. I’ve binge-watched three episodes of Black Mirror, which is dark and fitting (I think, anyway) for a place like this, a stretch of beach that few inhabit in the winter. I can hear the wind and the waves, and the nearly-full moon made a short appearance before the clouds swallowed it up a few hours ago.
It is desolate here. When Lake Michigan tells you you’re not wanted, you best believe her. Tomorrow we’ll leave and the house will be winterized and I won’t see the ice buildup, the drifts that cover the doorways, the unpassable driveway. By spring it’ll be chillingly cold but the snow will have left no trace, other than a re-carved and freshly scrubbed beach. It’s how it works here, the seasons cycle and refresh. I hate to be away.
I am cherishing the quiet of these last few hours of 2017.
I feel doubly responsible to consider each new year as a fresh start. For one, the calendar tells me there is a new year and for two, my birthday is just a week later. Two chances for a fresh start; two opportunities to consider what I’m holding on to that no longer serves me or makes me a better human, or that is impeding my relationships, my peace, my life.
Oh, am I holding on to some crap. Papers and books from college. Trinkets that won’t be used or displayed. Pots, pans, mugs and glassware that I don’t love and don’t use.
The catch-all places in my house are stuffed, and it is this I have to face in 2018. My office closet (disaster). The furnace room. Kitchen drawers. The pantry and spice cabinet. The storage space under the stairs. Bedrooms that hold the remnants of my children’s youth.
I know I’m not alone, and I know that what might feel insurmountable to me (like my office closet) might be nothing compared to someone else’s closet, garage, or studio that they are facing clearing out. Somehow that doesn’t make me feel much better when I open that closet door, reach in to begin, and then shut the door again in panic.
But I don’t know what to do with the stuff I don’t know what to do with. You know? Papers from my kid’s elementary schools. Old bits of mail. Boxes or receipts from electronics. Typewritten papers from college with notes I might want to read again (like the note from my poetry professor, who wrote encouragements like “Now you’re cooking!” and “yes! you got it!” in the margins of my poem analysis papers). What do people do with the stuff they might want to revisit but don’t need to use every day? Pack it away and deal with it later? Toss it and never look back?
I’m going to make a start, at least. Donate or sell the two cameras I have that aren’t working. Get into that closet. One kitchen drawer/cupboard, one basement shelf, at a time. Designate a space for the important papers from my children’s school years and toss the non-important ones, like those old field trip permission slips still jammed into kitchen drawers. I’d like to end 2018 feeling at least a little bit more organized than I’m beginning it.