Monday, 4 August 2014


Sometimes I wonder if the meaning of life consists in moving physical objects from one place to another.
My son with the strong organising gene has been home for a week.  Together we tackled a job I had been putting off for ages – sorting the den/box room/glory hole/junk room.  We found a few treasures to keep and put them into clearly labelled lidded plastic boxes.   But mainly we persevered with a major decluttering task, sorting stuff for recycling, charity shops, ebay.  We steeled ourselves to be ruthless and found it a liberating experience.  If we hadn’t used something or looked at it for a couple of years we threw it out.  The room was transformed into a storage facility with space for actual storage instead of a no-go area because you couldn’t get beyond the doorway.
But there were other things I thought might turn up but didn’t – the spare keys to a car I no longer own, a watch I was sure I had put in a drawer a couple of years ago.  I thought of Elizabeth Bishop’s brilliant, unsettling villanelle “One Art” which begins “The art of losing isn’t hard to master”   
Somewhere in the universe there must be a black hole swallowing odd socks, coat hangers, paperclips – those things that no matter how many I buy always seem to diminish in number.
Today I called to see a friend who is moving house tomorrow and, by a strange co-incidence, this morning I read Lorna Goodison’s poem “One in a Long Line” (from Oracabessa).  It’s a wonderful poem from a great collection.  It’s about “sojourning women” – the Virgin Mary fleeing into Egypt (New Testament), Hagar cast out by Abraham (Old Testament), Khadija, the very successful merchant who became the first wife of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.  The poem is a reminder that being on the move is part of life for so many women:
            “Held always before you examples
              of sojourning women going far
              for substance of things hoped for.”
“Nothing stays put” as Amy Clampitt says in her poem of that title (apart from anything else, one of the best shopping poems ever).  “All that we know, that we’re/made of, is motion.”

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