Saturday, April 30, 2011


Washington Island, Wisconsin -

The widespread and often complete destruction of homes and businesses in cities and rural areas throughout the south this past week by tornadoes is difficult to comprehend.  

Television footage has shown us what it looks like, but the smells, sounds (or lack of sound) and emotion experienced by those persons most affected can only be imagined.  In so many cases, it appears, homes and personal possessions vanished into the stew of rubble and trash.

Quite frequently, here on Washington Island, we remind ourselves of the safe environment we enjoy, generally free from threats of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, or forest fires.  We tend to crab about the tourist season, the economy, the level of Lake Michigan, things that do impact our lives but that we can often adjust to until the pendulum swings another direction.

Reality TV and the show "Hoarders" has taught us how debilitating it can be to collect things, and to hang on to them for years, tied not by their usefulness but by the emotional bond we have with them.  Most items, it would seem, have not seen the light of day in those houses jammed with stuff, and the owners would be hard-put to say when they last used or saw a particular item.  But it's there, somewhere, and they know that, and the parting seems too painful, so the item stays, joined and buried by more of the same as days, weeks and years go by.   The accumulation eventually becomes a hazard to physical and emotional health.

This morning, I lightened my own load of stuff, saying good-bye to a teddy bear that had been in a closet in one house after another for some 62 years.   I think I got it as a Christmas present on my first birthday, because it was captured on an 8mm home movie taken by my father.  My mother, bless her, made some clothes for him (it), and I suppose those ties of my early birthday and the clothing Mom added to the teddy bear made it too hard to part with.  So, here I am at 63 years of age, and my bond with this toy...which has not been often viewed during the past 60 years because it was either in an attic or a trunk, is an object I still found hard to part with.   But this morning, the bear is on its way to the compactor at the Island Exchange, then from there to a landfill close to Green Bay, WI following a bouncing ride on the ferry and over highway by trash truck.  

Imagine:  it is harder in some ways to ditch an emotional piece of the past like that teddy bear, than old friends and acquaintances.  That's a screwy view of the world.

Good riddance!  I feel better already!  Did I think tossing that toy stuffed bear out with the garbage would hurt my mother's feelings?   (I won't tell her.  She is 94 and hard of hearing anyway.)

And another set of items also left my sight this morning, via UPS package:   two mementos from sailing days 40 years ago.  They had collected dust and got an occasional review from me when I stumbled upon them, but they will be much better appreciated by members of the Bonneville Sailing School in Utah, where the boat I sailed on now resides and is being restored.

A home run:  Get rid of more stuff, along with the emotional baggage, and that stuff being received by others who may actually use and appreciate it!

A friend who lives in Seattle is going through a similar experience of moving from one home to another and having to sort out, sell, or throw things collected or purchased over decades.   He said, "The ideal situation would be to go through a natural disaster that lets me escape with only my health and the clothes on my back."  

There is wisdom in that thought, the elimination of the emotional process that goes along with paring down our lives.   Although none of us would actually choose to go through the trauma experienced by folks who have lost everything but their lives and loved ones, there is a perverse envy in the fact we see they now have a clean slate, that is, assuming their emotional state will allow them to get on with their lives.

If we believe in prayer, in the transfer of positive spiritual energy, and the wise use of our wealth to help others, it is our wish that in the future we can live without debris and avoid the sometimes painful tripping over our past.  We can replace collected objects and their weight with great hope and prospect for what the future might hold.  

-  Dick Purinton


Anonymous said...

Dick--I really enjoy reading your blogs. You have a gift. Keep writing and I'll keep reading. Paul Haupt

Richard Purinton said...

I appreciate hearing from readers. Never know how the topic and treatment will register, and if it is a positive response, all the better. - DP

Anonymous said...

I did the same thing a while back, but had to take the old friends to the Good Will Resale store.... I also look forward to your blogs..

Don said...

Hi Dick: This reminds me of the time in 1994 when we moved from that big house (3 floors, 7 bedrooms) to a one bedroom (and a small BR for the grandkids) house in Copper Harbor. As we were deciding what had to go to the land fill I found a large paper bag stapled shut with a date on it. The date was 1993. I was about to open it but then I remembered the significance of the date. I had emptied all the kitchen drawers of the junk that had been accumulating for too many years and wrote a date five years in the future. I decided at that time if I didn't need the stuff inside for 5 years, I didn't need it at all. I tossed the bag without opening it. I still wonder what the devil was in it...

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and your books....your writing and your pictures are always wonderful and interesting; thanks! I have to say, though, I felt soooo bad to see that poor teddy bear on his way to such a gruesome fate! What a wonderful collectible that could been for someone who loves teddies, or even a tourist who could've spotted in one of Door's many antique stores...the dump just seems like a horrible ending for such a treasure. My daughter and I were almost in tears. I am hoping for another blog entry that says you changed your mind at the last minute and rescued that sweet bear from that horrible ending....