Downsizing. Minimizing. Trimming. Whatever the name, the act of reducing the number and volume of one’s physical possessions is appealing. Simultaneously, though, it is anathema to one’s obligations to preserve important components of the past. My mother’s set of beautiful wine glasses, etched with images of grape vines—a wedding gift she received—have sentimental value to me. They may have financial value, as well. They are, I think, fine crystal and are at least 85 years old. But my sentimental attachment may be the last in a line; as far as I know, none of my siblings’ children want them, nor would they value them in the same way I do. I am holding on to several of my late wife’s shirts because they hold meaning for me. My original thought, when I decided to keep them, was for images from the shirts to be used to create some kind of fabric “art.” That hasn’t happened. And it may not. So what do I do with the shirts? And what if I decide the two sofas and set of wood tables (and lamps) my late wife and I bought together are too much “stuff?” Like so much other “stuff,” they hold memories for me they would not hold for others.

Estate sales, quite popular in the Village, represent the disposal of vast quantities of “stuff” that meant a lot to their owners—sentimental value of immeasurable proportions—but that represent only “bargains” to most buyers. The idea of certain of my possessions going to unknown strangers is both understandable and upsetting to me. I am not sure I could ever forgive myself for selling those wine glasses or those sofas or tables or lamps. But if not, I am probably delaying the inevitable, with estate sale prices hiding the sentimental value my possessions  hold for me.

Why should possessions hold ANY value? They should not. But the connection we apply between possessions and events and/or emotions do no care whether possessions SHOULD have value. It’s a tough road, I think. But it’s one I plan to devote some intense though to. Possessions, after all, are like anchors; they tend to inhibit free movement. The older I get, the more I get a sudden desire to just “take off,” with virtually no preparation and no timeline. That is not possible when possessions require attention of one kind or another. The solution is to reduce the number of possessions and, therefore, the number of inhibitions to one’s freedoms. But the absence of possessions, whether sentimentally valuable or not, can be just as frustrating as the restrictions caused by owning them. I have no solutions. Only questions.


The forest is thick enough that the dim light in the sky just before 5 a.m. is barely visible through a thin scattering of spaces between leaves and branches. As she props herself on her hind legs to peer out the windows, Phaedra focuses on something of intense interest. The object of her fascination could be a chipmunk or ground squirrel or bird or something larger and more sinister. I choose to believe the latter possibility is quite slim, so I her enthusiasm for an  unknown attraction does not alarm me. And I do not give much thought to the former, though obviously I am giving both of them enough thought to take up space in my mind and on the screen in front of me. My fingers have refused to deviate from the cat’s interest just yet, but I am confident they will acquiesce to my increasingly frustrated insistence. Eventually. Before the full light of the sky bathes the forest in solar illumination. “Solar illumination.” Ah, yes, why use one word—sunlight—when two or more will accomplish the same purpose. I enjoy using a variety of words, if for no other reason than to prevent them from getting encrusted with the plaque of forgetfulness for lack of use. I still forget the meaning of words, even relatively common words. And I’ve always had a habit of using some words that, if asked, I probably could not define—I must have heard them used in connection with the accompanying words in a particular context. And, therefore, I know my usage is correct, but I cannot be precise in explaining its meaning. That is embarrassing; it’s as if I was caught using words whose definitions I do not know. Which is exactly what I have done. Which is reason enough to be deeply embarrassed, even ashamed. And I am embarrassed and ashamed far more frequently than is comfortable. Or than is conducive to mental health. My mental health or lack thereof has no bearing on the light filtering through the trees. The Japanese word for that is komorebi. I am pleased and surprised I remembered the word and know its definition. I remain disappointed that, to my knowledge, the English language does not have a single word that would translate in Japanese to komorebi. Even so, misuse (or even proper) of words, mental health, and foreign language words for which there is no direct English translation have nothing to do with the way this paragraph began. Isn’t that often the case with me? Do I not slip, quickly, from one subject to a completely unrelated one, and then back again? I’ll answer that question: yes, I do. It’s either my style or evidence of mental degradation. Or both, perhaps.


We made reservations last night for a flight to Guadalajara to visit my brother and his wife, who live in a village a bit further south. While the trip will not take place for some time yet, I already am getting excited. I have not seen them since my last trip down, which I think was about four years ago. Their village and surrounding communities have grown in that time, so I may not recognize parts of the area. But the core of the place, including blocks of colorfully painted and densely-populated one and two story colonial buildings and the village plaza, remain unchanged. What I most look forward to doing, though, is to sit on the veranda in the afternoon, sipping wine or a shot, and talking. Of course we’ll have to wander the streets and visit shops, but the most relaxing aspect of a visit there is to be in their beautiful house—surrounded by lush plants and a beautiful pool and offering a view of Lake Chapala—and soak in the serenity and the culture of Mexico.


With luck, the repairs to my car today will be fast, inexpensive, and completed properly and professionally. If the problems are too deeply buried in the vehicle’s computer chips, I probably will have the thing towed to the Subaru dealer (I think my AAA membership will cover the towing). Either way, I will attempt to remain calm, accepting of things in my sphere that I cannot control, and will to learn from the experience. That does not sound like me in some ways. I know. There may be more than some.


I am tired of writing and even more tired of sitting in a chair. I need to walk around. And I will do just that.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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