Staycation/home-decluttering week is over, and I’m back at my computer. And, of course, we didn’t get nearly as much done as I had naively included on my detailed to-do list. But we still made a lot of progress.
Each day, we tackled a different room, and each day Al carted out bags of recycling and give-aways. We made a huge donation of toys to a local neighborhood center that serves many families throughout our city. Both of our daughters have helped, either in person or via video chat, to determine what stays and goes. I’ve learned a lot about getting home improvement estimates from contractors, and we have one big project scheduled and another in the works.
In the process, I read through about fifty years of saved correspondence (writing letters is truly valuable), sorted old papers (no, I really don’t need my grad school graduation program), and sifted boxes of photos (old color prints stick together and are useless unless mounted in an album). Favorite finds include an edited copy of my college application essay, several priceless letters from my grandmother, and a series of old ID cards from my twenties, some of the only pictures I have of myself pre-scleroderma.
To break up the work, we took two afternoons off for day trips: on Thursday to the Fitchburg Art Museum—a real treat, our first such visit since the pandemic—and on Sunday to Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, run by Massachusetts Audubon, on the southeastern coast. So, we finally got to the ocean this summer. The woodland hikes were beautiful, the shore, blustery and delightful.
On the way back to our car, walking along the rocky beach, I noticed a very smooth, gray rock and picked it up. It has a slight depression on one of its six sides. Another is slightly rounded. It feels soft, even though it’s hard. It fits perfectly in my hand. Maybe it was once a cobblestone in some old New England street. It’s been tossed and tumbled for who knows how long before it ended up at my feet. Its presence, beneath the bright, late August sun, spoke to me.
I brought it home to use as a paperweight. But there’s something about holding it that feels comforting. Just as I’ve sifted and sorted old stuff to glean the mementos that capture important personal history, I find something grounding in a rock that perhaps once supported thousands of feet and carriages and cars, that was discarded as useless, that spun through an ocean of turmoil, and is now source of beauty and calm. There’s a lesson to be learned there—and remembered—at the end of a pandemic staycation, when the world seems upside down.