June 19th, 2011

Deep Into the Mines

I've written about how time-consuming it is for me to sort through my "archives" many times in the life of this journal. Whether I'm attempting to find room in my overstuffed office at home, rearranging boxes in the garage, or looking for something buried deep in my storage space, it's almost impossible for me not to get more emotionally involved in the process than I should. And, yes, that's why I should radically pare down my possessions, since there's always something bittersweet about handling them and especially so now, when even once-happy recollections can only be viewed through blue-colored glasses.

Since we just watched the extended edition of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on the big screen this past Tuesday, I can't help but think of the scene before Frodo & Co. enter the mines of Moria, when the voice of Saruman comes to Gandalf, reminding him that the dwarves who hollowed out the mountain were greedy and dug too deep. To be sure, the "Balrog" that I awoke in my latest excavations in our garage is outwardly far less fearsome than the one Gandalf must confront in Moria. Yet his whip is just as treacherous, threatening to pull me down into the abyss at any moment.

But since I have yet to muster the courage to turn my back on the past and, indeed, have repeatedly vowed to myself not to start tossing things out wholesale as my mother once did during her mid-life crisis in the late 1980s, I am faced with the far more delicate and laborious task of sorting through all the material I once set aside for posterity, deciding what still merits the designation of "keepsake" and what can now be dispensed with. To make this project even harder, I am also the one who has to make sure that similar decisions are made for Kim and Skylar's possessions in the process.

For all of the force with which Kim insists on keeping her past at a distance these days, she still has plenty of mementos boxed up in the garage and storage space. And Skylar is, if anything, worse than I am about deciding that something of hers can be given or thrown away. Sometimes this extra burden comes with benefits, as it did this afternoon when I was able to bring Kim some of the art she has had stored away since we moved to Tucson. Nevertheless, having to stay mentally strong, not dispensing with an item until I'm absolutely sure that neither I nor they will regret its loss later, is very tiring.

That's why I try to take a break periodically in order to focus on whatever positive outcomes have accompanied the process. Tonight, looking through a stack of small and medium-sized memorabilia, I decided that it was unreasonable to write about each special rediscovery individually -- I'm apparently going through one of my infrequent level-headed phases -- but came up with an alternative plan: to make one of my "scanner collages" featuring some of my favorites:

All these finds were unearthed from our garage on Saturday, June 18th and Sunday, June 19th, 2011. That's Berkeley legend rick Starr on the right, next to the Campanile. The concert tickets are for three of the acts I most enjoyed seeing live. The matches are from places special to me and Kim. You get the picture. Ask away, if you feel so inclined.

If you're curious about anything you see here, I'll be happy to try to explain what it is and/or why it matters to me. For starters, everything in the collage dates from the happiest decade of my life, beginning with my year as an exchange student in Germany and ending in 1996, the year when I finally figured out how to write the way I wanted to about culture and, not coincidentally, also the best year Kim and I had as a couple, from the adventures we had backpacking to our wedding and New Orleans honeymoon. In that brief window of time, after her destructive relation to alcohol had diminished and before the pressures of trying to have a child or becoming parents or moving away from the Bay Area had taken their toll on our affection for each other, we were well matched.