imaginary outfit: small losses

Adapting the of idea of death by a thousand cuts, I'm whittling away my possessions. When we left Ohio, our space halved. That spurred a major purge, but the two years since has seen an even more radical, if gradual, change. Ruthless edits have pared down the contents of every closet and drawer. I know every single item in the 400 square feet I call home, and I'm constantly considering what else can go.

Last weekend I went through my art supplies again. In Cleveland, we had a second bedroom and they lived in orderly sprawl. Here, of course, that's gone, and they've been condensed and relegated to four drawers. That's precious real estate in a small place, and I find myself wondering if it is time to give them up.

Going through them is like rifling through a double time capsule. Collecting them has been the work of years, from the kaleidoscope pen I bought in 6th grade to the cut-out photographs from long dead calendars. And each group of things holds a lost vision of myself - the watercolor sets, the linoleum blocks, the raw gemstone beads, the empty notebooks. Materials for unmade and half-made things that the person I wanted to be would have created. They mark ambitions that outpaced talent and practice. It's essentially four drawers of memories and wishful thinking.

We are all the fiery suns of our own private solar systems. Our gravity gives meaning and purpose to the objects in orbit around us. Without my memories, the kaleidoscope pen is just a busted toy that doesn't write. Without the pen, maybe I'll forget that particular October day after school, walking with my friends to the little stationary store on the square of our small town, spinning racks of iridescent stickers and looking at the mylar balloons gridded on the wall, buying that pen with money especially saved because it was the coolest pen I'd ever seen. Either one would be a small loss. Giving up the dream that I am someone who could make something meaningful is harder. For now, the drawers stay.


Thinking over: James Wood: 'Our libraries perhaps say nothing very particular about us at all.'


November colors: burgundy, gray and aquamarine.