Making a place

by Kathy Staudt

I haven’t posted in awhile because for the last three quarters of 2012, I was in the process of moving, from the split level house where we have lived for 24 years, and where our children grew up, to a newer house, walking distance from my husband’s work, a “tradeup” that worked for us in the current economy.

My goal when we started was to be settled in the new place by Christmas, and we were: we welcomed family and friends and celebrated the new places where we now find ourselves.

And now, moving into the New Year, in the season of Epiphany, I am finally settling down to write, in this spacious, light filled space that is the main floor of the new house. Only now can I begin to reflect on what the move has meant for me.

Though friends have commiserated along the way about how traumatic a move is (some have said “why would you choose to move?”)the process has been oddly serene for me. Yes: it has involved sorting through and throwing out the accumulated mess of 24 years and more. But it has also involved deciding to keep a lot of things that seem to contain our story: we have space, so I have kept boxes of memorabilia from our childhoods and college years, and from our children’s years in school, camp, growing-up-life. Some things we probably should relinquish but cannot yet: our complete collection of vinyl records — the music we acquired separately and combined into a fabulous classical music collection. We grew and enjoyed that collection during the first decade or so of our married life — before digital vinyl gave way to CD’s and mp3s. We did throw things away: truckloads, in fact. But we have kept a lot, too.

I have seen this especially as I put our books back on the shelves: the last step in the move-in, which makes me feel fully “at home here.” I arrange them by genre, and alphabetically by author, with special photos and knickknacks breaking up the monotony of library shelves. Fiction and poetry in our large rec room Theology and literary criticism, Bible and more poetry in my own study. As I put the books out I relive my intellectual life. I wonder about the people whose books I’ve bought and not yet read, about the projects ahead of me that some of the books may open up. The library is testimony to an ongoing life of learning. There are books here that I will read or return to. “There you are!” I say to a book that I’ve loved and not seen since June, when I packed so much away to “stage” the old house for sale (Prospective buyers, apparently, would view too many books as “clutter”). These are my friends. It’s good to have them back.

I have of course thrown out boxes and boxes of books, clothes, papers, and given away more. So arranging our things in the new place is not a matter of grasping or attachment. Rather, for me it has been a process of letting our things tell our story. There is something sacramental about the act of placing them here, with intention, in this new place — as if I were offering for blessing the history that has already formed us, and hoping to give it new space, new expression, in the years ahead.

For this is the turning of a page, with a new chapter of life ahead. There is space here for guests, for new family members should they arrive, for a new way of being together as a couple. As I have sorted and stacked and boxed and unpacked the things that hold our story, our life as a family, I have done so sometimes with surface weariness and stress, but mostly with a deep-down sense of peace, as if God were working in my spirit in ways that I can’t access just now. And the work with the stuff, on the surface has been a good distraction, keeping me out of God’s way.

There are already hints of what this new chapter will bring: 2013 will be the year that I turn 60. It is also the year that we will inherit more “things” — as we help to close up and sort out both our mothers’ homes, and inherit more things laden with family history. I already see times of both grieving and celebration in the year ahead. So am sure that the process of moving has been a preparation for me, a loosening of control and opening to new things. I emerge from the work of moving now and step into Epiphany. I am deeply curious, turning the page, to see what this new chapter of my life will bring.

Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt keeps the blog poetproph. She works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area and is the author of two books of poetry: “Annunciations, Poems out of Scripture” and “Waving Back:Poems of mothering life”, as well as a scholarly study of the modern artist and poet David Jones.

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