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The Latest Freed Man

July 30, 2012

On Saturday we went to Cincinnati to an IKEA with some friends, and bought two more bookcases and a shelf for DVDs. On Sunday we unpacked the last of the boxes we’d packed up in May, after the flood. These were boxes with audiobooks on cassette tape and VHS movies. I had to stack some of them up in a pile because we’re still short a shelf, but at least everything’s out where we can see it. I don’t see much point in keeping movies like The Lion King and A Bug’s Life in boxes where they’ll never get seen again.

We have some great audiobooks—for instance, we discovered that Henry Huggins is read by Neal Patrick Harris—but no way to play the cassette tapes anymore. Ron discovered that some of these go for high prices on the internets, but we’re not at all sure we want to devote the time necessary for trying to sell them. I don’t want to take them to the local Goodwill because I think they might get thrown away. I’m toying with the idea of taking them to Columbus to Half Price Books. Any other suggestions?

I went through the surprisingly big box of little objects that used to sit in front of books on bookshelves, like a glass candleholder I was given when I was younger than my daughter is now, and decided to get rid of some of them. Others, like the dinosaur skeleton my daughter assembled at the age of four or five and christened “Bony,” went to that small toy box of toys we can’t part with but no longer play with in the utility room.

Going on vacation gave us the strength to finally finish up with re-furnishing, unpacking and cleaning out the basement. And now I feel a bit like the latest freed man, in this poem by Wallace Stevens.

The Latest Freed Man

Tired of the old descriptions of the world,
The latest freed man rose at six and sat
On the edge of his bed. He said,
“I suppose there is
A doctrine to this landscape. Yet, having just
Escaped from the truth, the morning is color and mist,
Which is enough: the moment’s rain and sea,
The moment’s sun (the strong man vaguely seen),
Overtaking his doctrine of this landscape. Of him
And of his works, I am sure. He bathes in the mist
Like a man without a doctrine. The light he gives—
It is how he gives his light. It is how he shines,
Rising upon the doctors in their beds
And on their beds. . .”
And so the freed man said.
It was how the sun came shining into his room:
To be without a description of to be,
For a moment on rising, at the edge of the bed, to be,
To have the ant of the self changed to an ox
With its organic boomings, to be changed
From a doctor into an ox, before standing up,
To know that the change and that the ox-like struggle
Come from the strength that is the strength of the sun,
Whether it comes directly or from the sun.
It was how he was free. It was how his freedom came.
It was being without description, being an ox.
It was the importance of the trees outdoors,
The freshness of the oak-leaves, not so much
That they were oak-leaves, as the way they looked.
It was everything being more real, himself
At the centre of reality, seeing it.
It was everything bulging and blazing and big in itself,
The blue of the rug, the portrait of Vidal,
Qui fait fi des joliesses banales, the chairs.

Change is hard for me. I don’t like to get rid of old books, or furniture, or even take some of my old photos out of the frames I originally put them in. So I’ve had an ox-like struggle with the renovations. But now everything is cleaned out and I am free from making decisions about what stays and what goes for a while. We can live at the center of this reality, seeing it.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    July 30, 2012 10:07 am

    I have not yet put all the knickknacks and geegaws back on surfaces in the living room and I’m finding it freeing, in a way. Because I don’t have to put any of that crap back. I can choose a few and box the rest. I don’t want to throw it away – troll dolls and other things – but it doesn’t have to all be on display. None of the books left the house but I did post a stack on PBS. So, one day they might trickle out. And if not, I’ll donate them to the local library.

    • July 31, 2012 8:26 am

      For a while, we were thinking we weren’t putting any of that crap back, either. But then we looked at the box again and decided we were fond of some of them and wanted to see them out. Not that many of them, though!

  2. July 30, 2012 10:52 am

    We went to Ikea on Saturday too!! Did you get Hemnes shelves? 🙂

    • July 31, 2012 8:27 am

      We got Billy bookshelves. That’s what most of our downstairs is (once again) lined in.

  3. July 30, 2012 6:34 pm

    OOOoooo, I like “the morning is color and mist” — I KNOW that. 🙂

    I had such a freeing feeling when my mother gave me permission to take a few things to goodwill, that were probably worth SOMETHING but just not to me. I sent them off with a wish that they would be found by excited ebay-ers who might gain a tidy profit in hope that they spend wisely.

    I heart IKEA.

    PS – I thought of you today – I saw a most enticing postcard but failed to take the time to buy it. Now it may haunt me… Just know that I thought you would be a worthy recipient.

    • July 31, 2012 8:31 am

      You picked out one of my favorite images from that poem!
      We sold several things that I’d kept for far too long at our garage sale, when all the stuff that got wet was carried up to the garage and I decided we weren’t carrying much of it back down. I sold the beautiful little rocking chair that had been mine and some other things I think I was supposed to keep and hand down. But I had the satisfaction of seeing a happy little girl sit in the chair and her grandmother bought it for her (for a song, as is the way with garage sales in this small town).
      I do love postcards. They don’t take up much storage space!

  4. August 17, 2012 5:21 pm

    It can be difficult to part with precious things. I find that I have to revisit things every so often and purge a bit so we don’t get overrun. I wonder who has VHS players anymore!

  5. August 18, 2012 9:44 pm

    We have a combination VHS/DVD player–the DVD part doesn’t work anymore, but we can still play VHS tapes on it…while they last–we found that many of the cassette tapes we kept eventually stopped working, for one reason or other.

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