In the hour before it was time to leave for a day at the Yosemite warehouse, I completed clearing those two shelves from the shop. Carted 50 copies of Secular Wholeness to the blue bin along with some other books, and wheeled it to the curb. That book was my first effort at self-publishing, and I ordered 50 copies. I had some notion that I’d be asked to give talks and could sell books at those talks. I did give one talk and sold a couple of copies. That was it; and the rest sat on the shelf for fifteen years.
Also cleared out about 50 CD-ROMs of old pictures. In the years after 2004 or so, when our photography was fully digital, I’d load the images on my computer. Then we’d cull them jointly, on the screen. Marian, always practical, assumed that the rejected pictures would be dragged to the trash can. Me, I was always worried I’d want to go back and recover something. So after the group of images was all organized into a folder, I would burn all the rejected image files onto a CD-ROM and save it in the shop. All those discs of rejected images went in the black can. I saved the jewel cases, thinking a pile of jewel cases might sell in the estate sale.
After I dragged the roller cans to the curb for pickup tomorrow morning, I went in the house and had a few minutes of emotion. Actual crying, sobs and sniffles and all. Crying over “shards of the old life, going away,” in the phrase I came up with back on Day 15.
All those saved checks, saved pay stubs, saved books, saved image files — records that we never once referred to over the years — what was the point of curating that collection? I think now we were (unconsciously) trying to make a monument to our lives, something that proved we were here, we were competent, we behaved in a laudable way. That nonverbal message was the only possible value for that stuff.
Now, throwing it all away, I was grieving for a life that is over. Not Marian’s life, although her death precipitated this clean-out, but the comfortable, stable, quiet, mediocre life that we crafted for ourselves for forty-odd years. The life’s gone, and the evidence of it, that we had so carefully organized and hoarded, is on the way to the landfill. And that reveals just how pathetically sad and futile it was to save it in the first place, which is another good reason for crying.
Well. That’s a lot of navel-gazing for 8:30am. Off to Yosemite for a day of cataloging and other museum scut-work. On the way home I detoured to Lowes in Sunnyvale, because last night I found they carried a toolbox that is about 30% bigger than the one I have now. Brought that home,unboxed it, looked at it. It’s ok but the metal drawers need lining. Ordered rubberized drawer liner from Amazon Prime, to be delivered tomorrow. We live in a wonderful world in some ways.
Then I started going through a big old box of files from my days as a free-lance writer in the 1980s. Found some reviews of, and ads for, my early books. I tucked those under the covers of the single copies of the books that I set aside yesterday.
I found a program that I’d designed, coded, and documented in 1978, while working in England. That was a fun read.