In the beginning, I let go of the mason jars.
I use them as water glasses. A tooth brush holder. Carriers for odds and ends. I use them for everything. But in this world, there will be more mason jars, always. And I have no more room for odds and ends. After a time I stopped bothering to set them down nicely. I dropped them into the giveaway boxes, listening to the glass ricochet off itself. Everything intact, or not. It wasn’t mine to bother with anymore. Later I looked because I couldn’t help myself. The mason jars were fine.
Then the cheese grater; the one that offered up Parmesan onto the fresh corn and tomato salad with the parsley from my garden. I brought that salad to a farm potlock once. It was the night I ran through the mud in the rain and slipped. I swam in the river in my clothes, in the rain. It was cold and flooded. It was july. The salad had been in a pyrex bowl I never retrieved from the hostess. I know how pyrex is made. All this, from the cheese grater.
Then the picnic baskets, and the utensils. The replaceable things. Pots and pans. Ornaments. Accessories. Housewarmings gifts, given for homes I no longer inhabit.
These things were easy. At least, they were easier than the rest.
And then the next box.
I held in my hands the shattered remains of my functional pottery collection; the plates I picked out individually, each one. I thought of the way regular dinner guests each had a favorite. The freshly baked bread in slices, arranged on a plate by Courtney Martin, blue, with stripes. The coffee mug made by Jason Burnett, chipper, bright, always full of coffee. There were gifts. There were hand-thrown bowls in which I’d served the best French onion soup my friends had ever eaten.
I had begun the collection years ago, deciding that not one part of my life would be ordinary. And if I was going to eat, it would be out of vessels made by human hands. The kind that had soul. I wanted every inch of my world touched by humanity. I wanted everything to be personal.
All of it, destroyed in the flurry of the last two weeks. It was too much to repair.
It felt like my heart was in my mouth, and I was biting down, again and again.
Now, it hits me. Two years of planning. Charts and savings and graph paper. This is a life I don’t know how to leave behind. This is a life I have moved toward for the last decade. It would have been different if I had been evicted from an apartment. Fired from a job. These things are fluid. You begin another one, the same way. I, however, had retreated from the world. I had rejected a 9-5 life, believing that if I needed less, I would have more time for the things I believed in. Living. I had walked out of the world and begun to augment the rules. I had believed that it could be possible for me to meet ends while teaching for free, while making art and music, while building community. I believed this with everything in me. I believed it when I directed my first charity ball ten years ago, and I believed it the day I dedicated myself to a life in a tiny cabin without electricity or running water.
When my health failed, I still believed it. When I could not get out of bed, I believed it. When my friend, the land owner, said, “Focus on your health, don’t worry about working on your house, use my bathroom and kitchen for as long as you need to, it’s fine,” I believed it. I believed that no matter how long it took, it would work out.
I believed, among other things, in people. When the family who had offered for me to build on their land for as long as I needed suddenly decided they would sell, and move to Vermont (in six months!), I believed they would see that I could direct my meager resources in only one direction: Moving the cabin with them, or continuing to build.
I believed my sincerity would gain me the benefit of the doubt.
I believed someone who loved me would never verbally demolish me, screaming at me until I crumbled.
I believed I could accomplish what I was able to when I was well.
I believed in a world that allowed for delays.
How do you come back from that?
I have been told that the sweetest thing about me is that I am a fool. That I wander into situations knowing how dangerous they are, sure I will strike that delicate balance. I do not know how to be jaded. But I do know how to be incredibly sad.
I know that you can not walk away from something until you can understand that it is gone.
I know that this cannot happen in a day.