“I inhale great draughts of space.” - Walt Whitman

If you’ve ever attempted it, you know that divorcing yourself from your possessions is a strange and difficult process. Nearly two years ago, I got rid of a good part of what I had accumulated over the past 10 or 15 years; the idea of taking what remained and putting it in a 5x8 storage space was more terrifying than you would imagine. I would wake up panicky, edgy, wondering if I had done the wrong thing, as if I had somehow dishonored the few things I still owned by putting them in a place completely devoid of ceremony. A cavernous warehouse by the railroad tracks, rows and rows of red corrugated metal doors and padlocks, the only variation a stenciled blue number.

My memory has a place for the things I kept and where I left them, and during long drives I sometimes find myself reaching back with a kind of bittersweet nostalgia to take inventory of that small room: My favorite red rug, rolled up and propped against a corner, the one whose earthy, woolen aroma will always remind me of doing yoga while struggling through a hard, hard year. Cobra, inhale, upward facing dog. My bicycle, a burgundy Schwinn cruiser circa 1980, the front basket decorated with a string of tiny red stars. An old dresser that I painted purple and red, the drawer pulls fashioned after delicate branches, once filled with socks, shirts, now host to a bizarre collection of odds and ends - clarinet, silverware, microphone, cast iron pan.

Boxes full of clothing that felt important enough to keep but yet have not been worn in 22 months, boxes with a few carefully chosen books, CDs, small paintings. One box, by all measure the most precious - mementos, the ones I kept. A few photographs, stitching together an awkward, stilted, incomplete history. Birthday cards signed in my father’s flowing script, a rare extravagance. Precious things, made by others, irreplaceable - small gifts from people who meant more to me than I could ever say. A ring, a note, a scrap of fabric torn from a lover’s dress, encrusted with the salt of the endless tears I cried when the relationship came to it’s inevitable and devastating finish.

These are the things I kept, these are the things I own, and these are the things that I have not visited since I was in Tucson almost 7 months ago. I think of them laying quietly behind the door, marking time, waiting while the yawning arc of the seasons passes. July, with its boastful, cumulous clouds birthing thunder, violent, pounding rain, creosote, all of this reluctantly but inevitably acquiescing to the relief of September, November, the restoration of cool desert nights, December, the rarity of frost. The strange, late falling of leaves in January, giving way to astonished green buds in February, the welcoming warmth of March, April foreshadowing the first 100-degree day in May. The sun, so clearly visible in the vast, cloudless desert sky, tracing its ancient ellipse from east to west, gilding the mountains as it sets, smoothing the jagged peaks into something softer, kinder. The tall shadows of mesquite trees, saguaros, stretching impossibly long across the flat, impenetrable earth.

And I, a world away, in Minneapolis, Omaha, Iowa, inhaling the lush beauty of a summer thick with cut grass; a dense, fertile, growing season, replete with lakes, mosquitos, sunscreen, gardens, children, popsicles, the smell of charcoal, lingering daylight. I think about the things I have kept, the things I have given up, the things I own, the heaviness and lightness that they offer in equal measure. The myriad of ways that beauty manifests, in fullness, in emptiness, aloneness, togetherness, in stillness and in chaos. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, inhaling, the soft exhale giving rise to a feeling which at first I cannot name. Slowly, patiently it coalesces, finally surfacing and revealing itself to me as single, solitary word:


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