Shedding a few mathoms

So we returned from our short bike tour of the Big Island  three days ago.  We had a wonderful tour, as we usually seem to do any more, and found cycling there to be much more attractive than we’d really been expecting.  For all the travelling we’ve done, it’s a bit surprising that we’ve never been to Hawaii.  It’s an amazing place, and one I imagine we’ll return to some day.

We brought some fine weather home with us, and Rachael’s been making the most of it.  She’s been out each of the last three days, enjoying sunny days and surprisingly warm conditions.  Unfortunately, I’m staying home nursing a pretty bad cold that I picked up on our last day of the tour.  Quite frustrating.  I expect that by the time my health improves enough for me to hop on the bike again, we’ll be back in winter again.


Mathom: the hobbit term for anything for which you have no use but are unwilling to throw away.

We returned from Hawaii still set on our new plan to sell our condo, shed or store our belongings, and hit the road with our bicycles for a few years.  We had a number of over-dinner conversations about this, going over the big questions, testing whether we are really solid on this idea or not.  We are sold, and very excited about it.  We’ve also picked our departure date and destination for our initial tour – a 90 day journey from Venice to Valencia, departing on September 5th – the first day we can return to Europe and be eligible for another 90 day visit.

We have a lot to do between now and then, beginning with preparing our condo for the market.  We plan to talk with a real estate agent in the next few days, but first we’re doing some decluttering.  We’re starting to go through our inventory of belongings, deciding what to sell or donate, and what to keep and place in storage for when we’re back in town and eventually for when we resettle.

Neither one of us is that attached to material possessions, and I expect most of the keep/toss decisions will come pretty easily.  There is a category of item that is hard for me to part with though: things that have a historical or sentimental connection for me, and remind me of events in the past.  Books, maps, travel souvenirs, photographs, playbills, that sort of thing.  We dedicate a lot of space to these in our condo, especially books.  We can’t keep it all though – it doesn’t make sense to pay for extra storage, and when we resettle it will be in a smaller place anyway.

So, I’m getting started; beginning with the books.  I almost never reread books other than to occasionally pick one up and leaf through it, but I love having them around and seeing their  spines on the shelf.  Many of them remind me of where I was when I read them, and even of who I was at the time.  They’re not all like that though.  I made a first pass through the library and pulled out a large pile of books that I can part with – perhaps half of the total.  I’ll let these go, and then come back and make another pass or two through, until I get down to a core that I can’t bear to part with yet.

After that, I took on the playbill collection – programs from theater, dance and music performances Rachael and I have shared over the years.  There are many of these, because we’re dedicated patrons of the arts – we’ve been subscribers to two or three theaters, the symphony, a dance company and a chamber music organization for most of the time we’ve lived in Portland.  These will all go out the door, I think; but we’re saving photographs of playbill covers , as a reminder.

I’m chipping away at the print photographs too – there are several large boxes and about a dozen albums of these, for the years before we started traveling with a digital camera.  The plan for these is to digitize the ones we care about, and then toss the originals.  I’ve been working at this in conjunction with publishing our old journals.  This is an emotionally painless task, but time consuming – I’ll probably still be chipping away at it when it’s time to move out.

Finally, there are the maps and travel souvenirs.  These are painful.  I have a large collection of road and hiking maps and atlases that I’ve collected over the years – from tours we actually took, ones we imagined but decided against, state and county highway maps, and so on.  Some of these are pure utility – I have a map of New Mexico, and could get another if I need it.  Others though hold meaning for me – routes taken are inked in on some; others are half-maps, where I tore off only the part we needed in order to trim weight; others are wrinkled, soiled, have the appearance of a journey they shared with me.  Very painful.  I made a first pass at these too, got rid of the easy ones; but then each one I picked up felt heavy in my hands, and my eyes teared up.  Time to stop for now.




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