Space Clearing

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At the risk of outing myself as some sort of woo woo shaman witch psychic nut job, I’d like to talk about clearing space.

I know it may seem as if that is all I talk about in the physical sense. Removing items from my home I no longer need, encouraging you to do the same and reveling in the newly created open space.

But this is space clearing of a different kind, although it walks hand-in-hand with the removal of objects.

The space clearing I’m referring to here is energetic.

I know you sort of believe me. I know you’ve been in a room in a house that felt stuffy or thick or off. You’ve walked into a space that felt tense or one that felt open and airy. You’ve been in a space completely devoid of people yet you either want to stay or you can’t get out of there fast enough. Why?

Right now so much of my home is stuffed with the energy of memories and history. Photos, books, papers, crafting supplies, linens and memorabilia have been gone through and organized.

Yet there is still much to be done. And the shadow of all those things lingers behind.

 

 

Most recently I culled through decades of photos, some over a century old. I discarded many and have plans for the rest, but I have much more to go through before I can allow myself the luxury of playing, so I have sorted them by decade in envelopes and stored them neatly away in the hutch in my beloved guest room. Alongside the photos live old newspaper clippings, horrible artwork, a blanket that was loved too hard and some deteriorating military felt.

I have completely (re)organized my guest room. The napping room. My favorite room in the whole house. (Perhaps I’ve mentioned it before?)

Only now the air is a little heavy with all those memories and history.

Here’s where the space clearing comes in.

For years I studied Feng Shui (more new age voodoo) and the focus of this tradition is energy. Move your stuff, change your life (actually the title of a really great book as well as a truism). Energy collects in corners, under furniture and appliances. It hovers near the ceiling or behind beds and dressers; things pushed up against walls. It can be stuck anywhere.

Its removal and dispersement does not have to take on some sort of mystical ritual, but it can. And maybe it should. For me, simply vacuuming can do the trick. But this space (and I’m sure, others to come) seems to be asking for more specific attention.

A simple way to clear space is to clap. Opening  the windows and door of the room to be cleared, walking around the room clapping into corners and up near where the walls meet the ceiling helps to move stagnant energy out. Seriously. The whole time I’m doing this I am honoring the energy that has collected there. It’s not bad or good, it’s energy.

After the clapping I clean the room, dust, vacuum, straighten up and take a shower.

Test it out. Go into a room that doesn’t see a lot of action, or one that has had a particularly negative visitor, and clap, just once. Is it clear? Does the sound reverberate? If not, perhaps you’ll understand. If so, great, no work needed, maybe.

If clapping isn’t your thing, a bell or chime will work. A handheld drum is also often used. Some use sage or incense.  If you are secretly woo woo and want to explore this phenomenon, I’ll post some links for you to check out. In the meantime, wander through your spaces, get a sense of them, notice the differences in how you feel in each space. And how each space feels.

Be curious. Honor your space and the energy there.

I recommend reading up on different techniques if this sounds useful to you. Here are the promised links. Let me know how it goes for you.

  • Denise Linn  is one of my favorites. She has strong Native American approach. I love her Space Clearing book.
  • Karen Kingston is another favorite.
  • Karen Rauch Carter is the funny, awesome lady who wrote the book I mentioned above, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life.

Gay Uncles

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I took a break from organizing and donating crafting supplies to begin the task of categorizing photos. The entire surface of the bed in the guest room is covered in boxes and baskets of photos. This room, the guest room, is my most favorite. It is decorated exactly the way I want it – simple white linens, an antique cherry night stand on one side of the bed and a filing cabinet hidden under a round top and layers of white linens on the other. The headboard is painted white-ish and gold – perfectly distressed – there is a cream colored bookcase, a dark oak hutch, white linen curtains and a dark wood chair. The art on the walls consists of bird prints and tiny pieces of original art I purchased on trips abroad. It is simple and clean (most of the time) and it’s where I go to breathe. The one room that is almost always neat and clean. I miss that feeling, so I’m digging in to unearth my little island of calm.

The photos are a mix of recent, with vibrant colors and uniform sizes and old yellowed, black and white with creases and cardboard backing. I love them all. The fresh memories and the bits of history I’m left to make up in the older ones. It’s those stories waiting to be told that I get lost in.

In these various piles there are two secrets closely held: one in a brown vinyl travel bag, the other in a tan photo album. They belong to my uncles. The twin great-uncles that I loved so dearly.

There is nothing scandalous hidden here. No pornographic images, no confessions or blackmail. The memories and photos are powerful in their simplicity. Each had many photos of the two of them together, they were very close, just standing side by side smiling for the camera. They were gay, both of them, though the opera singer would never claim his preferences. His brother, discreet, but out, would share his twin’s secrets with my mother and I after his death.

They weren’t really secrets.

The photos they left behind hold images of men seated in living rooms and kitchens, laughing, smiling, enjoying themselves. There are couples, it seems, only if the time is taken to go through them all. The same two men are standing or seated side by side with their arms around each other like “pals” on more than one occasion, in different clothes and maybe a change in hair style or length. These were relationships.

Tucked in with these photos are newspaper clippings of accomplishments of each other and their friends, their family.

What is so striking about these photos is nothing. Yet they were held in bottom drawers of dressers under winter clothes. I imagine them filling a roll of film half with these photos and the other half with shots of them with family and women so as not to arouse suspicion at the one-hour photo processing center in their home towns. Or even driving the unprocessed film far enough away. They would carefully cull out the photos and place the special ones in albums to be viewed often and probably alone or just with the subjects contained within. The other photos would be found loose in a kitchen drawer or in the envelope they came in, resting on the coffee table. Or maybe discarded.

So much of their lives were manipulated and restrained for the comfort of others. These secrets and maybe lies would ultimately undo them.

The opera singer, became well known in the opera community of New York City. He was married three times to different women, powerful artists in their own rights. I always suspected he was gay. He was just this side of flamboyant – dramatic perhaps, that was his job after all – and he never had children. Never wanted them. He was happy to be an uncle and he was an awesome one.

But his secrecy made him sick.

Ultimately the “not gay” opera singing uncle would succumb to AIDS toward the end of the eighties. He wasted away. He had denied his actual existence in favor of the persona he thought everyone wanted. And it killed him.

The other uncle lived much more quietly, pursuing the arts differently. He would work in Europe for Fortuny, then in Boston. Later he would open a lighting store, then a florist shop. He would drink and make the unfortunate decisions that come along with alcoholism. It was not easy living inauthentically. Liquor helped.

Later in life he would give it up. He met and fell in love with someone a decade younger who was sober but infected. They never had sex, he told me, but they were affectionate and madly in love. There are photos that make this obvious. Sweet, gentle images of the two of them engaged in conversation, smiling, listening.

But AIDS would take him too. They both knew it would eventually come and were as prepared as anyone can be for such profound, gradual loss.

There would be no other lovers. Instead he turned his life over to AA. For over 30 years my sweet uncle would take in people in the “the program” who needed a soft place to land for a while. He had inherited his father’s house and there were two bedrooms and a Florida room surrounded on two sides with jalousie windows and a back door. He moved into the Florida room to allow the residents of the other rooms some privacy. That’s just how he was.

The house was a very small typical Florida home built sometime in the 40s and 50s. Just one small bathroom, a large kitchen with a window over the sink with a wide sill that my great grandmother would place peanut butter crackers on for the local squirrel population, feeding some of them by hand and a living room big enough to fit an upright piano. His parents had lived in it over 30 years. He moved in with his father to help take care of him in his later years, to be sure he took his meds and didn’t drive after too many cocktails. His dad “knew” but it wasn’t discussed. His mother had passed ten years prior and she would not allow it to be spoken about. She knew too, they were her babies, the youngest of six by about 12 years. But still, you just didn’t talk about such things.

He would, much later after his beloved dog died, check himself into an assisted care facility from which he would not emerge alive. He was beginning to forget things and didn’t want to be a burden. He knew what was coming, he had seen it in every one of his older siblings, except his twin who would escape that fate by dying too young.  Less than a year after he moved out of his tiny Florida home he went to sleep and didn’t wake up. I’m pretty sure he planned it that way.

Their lives were rich, they mattered. They loved wholly and completely. They each left a legacy of art, beauty, laughter and love.

They were great, great-uncles and sifting through their photographic pasts fills my heart with compassion and sadness in equal measure for the lives they lived and the ones they hid.

 

All in the Family

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One of the side effects of minimizing social media was to be time to work on THE BOOK. In truth there are a few books battling it out in my brain, but the one I have made the most progress on was my intended.

The India Book.

A lot of it has been written. Well, a lot has been written, whether it makes it into the mythic book or not will depend largely on my friends who honestly read and comment, a paid editor and my mood.

This was the plan until yesterday when I made the decision to pick up a memoir I had started reading some time ago – before I realized my world was not under my control – and now I am questioning where to put those writing hours.

The book is Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas. The cover promises a chilling, gripping, and thoughtful read and it does not disappoint. I am fascinated with Ms. Thomas’ self- assessment (and later professional diagnosis) of sociopath and what that means. Her stories of childhood, adulthood, her professional career as an attorney and volunteer Sunday school teacher and her dispassionate, yet raw and honest depiction of these things has me rapt. But more than the actual details of her life and her postulation that sociopathy is a cocktail of genetics and environment, I am deeply in love with her command of language and writing ability.

So much so, that I’m leaning away from India and closer to the “memoir” I accidentally started a few year ago.

By the way, I now understand why it takes some writers 10 years to complete a book. It’s not that they get up every morning and work from 9-5 pounding out prose and researching characters and methods of murder; it’s that they can’t stop editing and complaining and changing their minds. I’m guessing.

Perhaps writing a new chapter for the memoir will lead me back to India.

Telling the stories no one wants told. This single sentence keeps showing up in the front of my mind like a wall street ticker on an Apple product release day. Telling the stories no one wants told…Telling the stories no one wants told…

Sleeping with cousins, inappropriate touching, being slapped down the stairs into labor at nearly nine months pregnant, affairs, illegitimate children, alcoholism, murder, serial marriages, deceit, war, strength, undying love, suffering, living on a boat, living out of a car, killed in the line of duty. It’s all in my family.

It’s all part of my story.

 

Personal History

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I am lost in a sea of personal history. Memories and emotions gently rock my present, nudging my attention this way and that.

My room: the repository of my past. Photos from as far back as 1800 and something. My great-grandparents parents photos and maybe their parents too. Some I know, some are magical ghosts of my DNA.

My room: the sanctuary of my creative aspirations. Over 20 boxes of hundreds of beads – many semi-precious stones that I could just caress for hours. I am partial to rubies, they feel mysterious and rich. Aquamarine gives me space, I can’t help but take a deep breath in when working with them. And sapphires are the keepers of  secrets. In boxes in my closet are unpainted canvases, paper cut for projects forgotten and photos I’ve taken and left to die in the back of a drawer.

My room:  the organizational nerve center. Four file drawers hold the remnants of an abandoned organizational system, files numbered and lettered but empty. Files full of bills paid, places to visit, the history of my pets and cherished documents that allow me to wander the earth.

My room: holder of tiny sacred spaces. An altar that continues to grow even though there appears to be no more room, sits atop a large bookcase. As I was counting it I thought I’d find new homes for some of the excess Buddhas and rocks, but there appears to be no such thing as excess Buddhas.

This was to be the last room on my list but something compelled me to “knock it out.” It’s been a week. More than. I’m almost done counting. That was supposed to be the easy part. But to count photos you must touch them and I don’t know about you, but I must also look at them. And as I do I am mentally eliminating some and finding purposes for others. I am sorting and organizing memories as if I can come back to them when I’m ready.

There are just a few boxes of photos left to count and then all the jewelry supplies. I have set a goal to complete the counting by the end of this week – Sunday. In the meantime I am surrounded by a mine field of unfinished projects. And it’s creating heaviness, filling spaces that I need free and open. Cards that need to be cut, photos to be sorted and culled, letters to be read and overall purging. This is just round one.

As I sort through the stuff that has built me I wonder what I am really hoping to gain by this process. My goal from the outset been space and time. I want to be able to walk into my home and not feel compelled to straighten up, but I sense something much deeper at work.

Urgency. I carry with me, deep in my gut, this sense of needing to get things done. Organizing, categorizing, sorting then storing. Get it done, check it off. But when it’s done will I be sad? Will I look for the next thing to accomplish no matter how trivial? Maybe that need will abate once things are ordered. Maybe not. This is the work of the process. This is why to abandon it or hold fast to rules would dilute the outcome.

It’s cranky and itchy, the process, but in a most informative way. It’s doing its work on me and I like, don’t like it. I think that means it’s working.