BootsnAll Travel Network

Anybody want a tripod?

I finished grading my students’ final exams, turned in their grades on the computer, stood up, and went numb, blank, and slightly crazy. I am now free till August 20, and in that time Manko will move to her first apartment, I will move to what feels like my first apartment (first time in years I didn’t have a kid or two with me), and then I’ll take Basho to a kennel and set out on my next pilgrimage, to see how these Zen centers feel and whether one of them is a good fit for my next longer-term home. I feel spacey, disoriented, and all at loose ends; I’m excited, unfocused, and hopeful, and if I were a cartoon I’d draw big dark circles around my wide-open eyes and a wiggly line for a mouth, with little wavy lines and small circles rising up over my head.

What next? When I move, I feel as though I’m moving in a dream–great effort, very little motion. I probably need sleep. Or maybe I need to listen to music. Or sit and meditate. Or jump off the balcony (no, just kidding). It’s too hot to go for a walk, and I don’t think I can read. There is stuff to be sorted: boxes for Manko, boxes for the trash, boxes for me. Why is life so utterly clotted with PAPER? Is everybody’s life like this? What is this paper? Bills, receipts, credit card offers I need to shred (especially the ones with blank checks for $10,000–“Need money?” they ask. “Please give us the chance to hound you for interest till the day you die.”) I see students’ essays, insurance statements, maps, lists of things I should have done last month, prisoners’ writing submissions that need to be matched with their SASEs and returned, unanswered letters from prisoners, unfinished research projects (should I throw these notes away? yes), pieces of manuscripts (I spent four years writing that–throw it away? yes), poems I wrote when Seth was a baby (throw them away? yes).

Photographs and letters surface unexpectedly and smack me in the solar plexus. Written on the flyleaf of Max’s famous book of theatre photographs are the words, “For Kathy. At the beginning–at the return. Max. 1/10/72.” I see his lean face, his wild hair; I hear his certainty that I would return to New York and we would make wild love again and again, and he would introduce me to Morris Carnovsky and Harold Pinter and Rosemary Harris, and my future success as an actress would be guaranteed. “You WILL,” he demanded. I never went back. Seth was born in 73. Max died in 1981. (Take this book to the dumpster? Yes. I can’t bear to sell it to Half-Price Books.)

What about this Odyssey magazine published in Cape Town in October 1996: on the cover is a photograph of Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Mandela is waving. The Dalai Lama has his two hands in prayer position lifted above his head. On the inside cover the two of them support each other, holding hands as they walk down stairs. (To the dumpster? No. I can’t. Days after that photograph was made I sat with the Dalai Lama in Durban; I can still feel the tingle of that energy.)

I think of Lillie, who went through all of this sorting last January so she could spend a year in Argentina; Carolyn, who did it so she could join her husband in Kuwait; Ritalinda, who had three jobs and a host of grants but ripped herself out of all of it and moved to Alabama. The four of us used to have breakfast together on Thursdays. I’m the last one left in Houston. I ache for them and wish I could ask them, “What did you do with all the paper?” I think they all shoved it into boxes and stored it or moved it. I have to get rid of it.

I’d like to do something to break with the daily effort of teaching–but what? If I lived near a body of water that isn’t polluted, I’d jump in, but the thought of Galveston–the heat, the filthy brown water full of runoff and toxic chemicals and jellyfish, the stinging sand–is hardly pleasurable. The heat and humidity are like a blast furnace outside, but inside I’m surrounded by decisions. There are little piles of stuff everywhere I look. There’s a perfectly good camera tripod leaning against the wall by the front door–but the camera I bought it for is long-gone. I sit here, stunned and immobile. When in doubt, go write in the blog.


3 responses to “Anybody want a tripod?”

  1. jessie says:

    JetGirl who did it in March after abondoning her life, fleeing from a violent boyfriend. Storage. I really need to go through that stuff. . .

  2. admin says:

    I’m crazy about JetGirl! We used to exchange emails and cheer each other on. I”m sorry she had this trouble, but glad she got out of it. Does she have a blog? If not, if you hear from her, tell her I’m sending up confetti and streamers for her new life!

  3. admin says:

    This comment on this post, from Christopher in Boston, got attached to the wrong post. Here it is:

    Kendall, lovely entry, though I’m reading it a few days later, surrounded, like you, with papers, papers, papers. Whatever to do with them? Here are a few sentences from Juan Ramon Jimnez, who was haunted by boxes of his own writing and felt compelled to revise them…

    For me the world has two parts– oen where there might be papers of mine, and one where there are none. How restful, the second!

    No day… without erasing a line and tearing up some paper or other.

    No page is too insignificant not to be torn up.

    In the papers in my wastebasket, what beauty, what rhythm and color, what a dull, restless kaleidoscope!

    And this one, which may pertain, if work=life:

    Let our work be free of us: the scaffolding taken down, the future philologist outsmarted: naked, smooth and round like the egg of a bird or the seed of a plant, like Venus on her shell!

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