On Packing


It is best to use a well-made bed or the floor, so long as you have a large, smooth, clear surface, a canvas, if you will. It is best to start early, to take your time, to mentally map out (a maze of nerves like tangled alleys, footpaths, avenues) the possibilities, the contingencies. You must have time to ask the questions: Will I get lost? Will I be loved? Shunned? Will I make it home again?

Things carried on a journey are personal, situational, and time-bound. Each item, however trivial, will be transformed when, in the midst of strangers and cacophony, it morphs into something singular and iconic: Americamother, lover, home. In Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Crusoe in England,” a knife that had once been among its owner’s sole possessions bears this weight of import:

The knife there on the shelf—
It reeked of meaning, like a crucifix.
It lived.

This problem of weighty, freighted things terrifies me utterly. I do not want the burden of either the object or its implicit value. One I have to carry, the other I will inevitably lose: Crusoe’s knife, after the journey, won’t even look at him; it is a dull, dead thing. What objects, I wonder, will bear my history along some dusty, wrong-sided road? My grandfather’s compass? The leather-bound diary? A sarong (read: table cloth, dress, satchel, curtain, mosquito net, bed sheet, towel)? And what will I cast aside as dead weight?


Continue reading here: http://velamag.com/on-packing/

[Photo by Melissa Maples.]