Ruth and I have taken possession of my house in Nanaimo. I packed everything into the crawl space nine years ago when I ran away to China. Now I’m unpacking, and drowning in nostalgia. Kids pictures. Film awards in frames. Daytimers with entries of appointments to names I’ve all but forgotten. I haven’t needed any of this for nine years. I’m tempted to just get a dumpster in front of the house and throw it all away. That’s what any sensible banker would do if she were taking possession of this place.
It’s amazing how much of my stuff survived, and in pretty good shape. I really expected the mattress to be full of mouse nests, the sheets and pillows to be shredded, the books to be rotten. But no. Everything is pretty much as I left it. There are exceptions. I had cut a couple of alder saplings as walking sticks, and left them at the back of the crawl space. They have turned to powder. Some tiny insect has drilled holes the size of this period . in them and they lack the strength to support their own weight. But only the alder. None of the other wood seems to have been touched, and three two by four studs look like I purchased them yesterday.
Anything stored in a plastic bag has emerged in perfect condition, including the tapestry my father gave me when I was about eight years old. I have mixed feelings about that tapestry. It depicts men on a troika shooting at wolves that are pursuing them across the frozen Siberian wasteland.
For my father, it resonated with a story he had read as a child – the father shooting wolves until he runs out of bullets, then leaping off the sleigh to be killed by the wolves but saving his wife and children. That story, for my father, was the very definition of manhood, even though his own experience in the wilderness told him it was a lie and complete nonsense. He several times told me of walking from his cabin in northern Saskatchewan to the train station to get a rifle that was being sent up to him, and of how the wolves seemed to be closing in on him while he walked. But once he had the rifle, the wolves were not around for his walk back to the cabin. Wolves don’t attack people. Especially people with guns. Anyway, I’m glad that tapestry survived, lie though it might be.
One shock is how little of the technology I had in storage has any value today. For fifty dollars we just bought a printer-scanner combination, making the scanner in storage redundant. I don’t have much use for a cassette recorder, or an answering machine.
I’ve started putting my books back up in the glass fronted book shelf. They say you can tell a lot about a person by the books on their shelf, and if this is true I’m not ashamed of the impression my books would give people of me. The collection is very eclectic, with everything from The Book of Mormon to practical books on subjects like flight training (and of course film directing) to pop science books and pure pot boiler fiction. I do wonder why I keep books now. It’s very unlikely that I will read any of them again.