Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall
Lyrics from the great singer/songwriter Guy Clark. What kind of stuff do you reach for? When the chips are down? Clark sings about an ol’ blue shirt, an old guitar, an ol’ pair of boots. I tend to reach for a tattered notebook and a pen, one that hopefully still has some ink in it. I go through them. The current one is turquoise.
Stuff that works and holds up.
I’m thinking about stuff, mostly because I just moved boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff. It’s truly horrifying how much stuff I had and still have. It’s a responsibility, stuff. Stuff needs you. Your attention. Your tender loving care. Even two tiny amber toothpick holders. I’ll explain. In her later years, my mom started shopping in antique stores, decided amber glass was stuff her eldest daughter should have, collected pieces for me on her travels. I don’t recall if she bought both of these toothpick holders, but I discovered as I emptied the cupboard that I had numerous vessels containing various types and styles of toothpicks. My husband B and I entertain a lot, people bring stuff, leave stuff. I was halted in my tracks by the sheer number of toothpicks in our possession, and whether I should keep these wee amber containers. Would Mom, who passed many years ago, know? Care?
I wouldn’t reach for these if I was falling. Only if I had hemp seeds stuck in my teeth. Pretty small stuff, but I let them go in favour of one plastic self-contained container of toothpicks. The toothpicks can’t fall out and icky things can’t fall in.
Let’s go to the other side of the stuff spectrum. The big stuff. A solid oak Mennonite table with eight leaves. Anyone looking for such an item? Anyone have a big enough dining room? Anyone still digging oak? The thing is, with a table such as this, you wouldn’t reach for it if you were falling because you cannot fall from this thing. It’s been tested. You can put all eight leaves into it, stand on an end, jump up and down, and it will not break. It’s that well-made. It’s big stuff that works. Sadly, it’s fallen out of favour and no one is interested in it anymore. I kind of wish it could just go back to being the giant it once was: an oak tree. I would reach for its branches if I were falling.
It’s decadent, isn’t it? The amount of stuff we possess within a lifetime? And do we possess stuff, or does stuff possess us?
Simple stuff. That’s what, in the end, I believe matters. An ol’ blue shirt, an old guitar, an ol’ pair of boots. Broken-in stuff that feels soft to the touch, molds to the body, the heart.
I disagree with Clark, though, about the “kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall”. You hang with artists, I suppose you end up wanting to hang good stuff on your walls. Original paintings speak to me. They’re stuff that works. They can’t hug me, like an ol’ blue shirt. Or soothe my feet, like an ol’ pair of boots. But their vivid colour? Their confident brush strokes? Those sing to my heart, like an old guitar. And no one can tell you what painting works. It’s personal.
Stuff. We come into the world without it. We leave without it. But we can’t get through life without a helluva lot of stuff. As I continue to downsize, I realize that I’m at a point in my life where I want to be in contact with much lesser quantities of quality stuff – that works, holds up, is real and I feel.