Six old watches that don’t work. Three travel alarm clocks. Four golf tees and two golf balls. Small rocks from important places I don’t remember. Old political buttons: “Yes on 12.” “Freeze Now.” “Mondale Ferraro.” Four key chains. A shoehorn. Jacks. A small flashlight. Two jackknives. Eight pens. Some 50 blank postcards. Another 50 notes of appreciations from kids, parents and teachers. Two pairs of cufflinks. A few bandanas. A big bag of foreign coins. Another of foreign bills. Birthday cards from family and friends on the occasion of my 40th birthday. My Pro Merito Orff Award pin. My fake Pole-Vaulting medal that I never got in high school, but deserved, so some friends had one made—I think on my 40th birthday. A photo of me at Mt. Baldy Zen Center sitting next to Leonard Cohen. An autograph from Milt Jackson wishing me the “best of soul.” A letter I wrote to Gary Snyder (did I ever send it?).
This is what I unearthed in three of my desk drawers while looking for some hippie paraphernalia for my Halloween costume. The flotsam and jetson of a life, things with enough juju to not mindlessly throw away, but also stuffed into a drawer in a heap of chaos and largely neglected and forgotten.
But what a pleasure to sift through it again, not only to sort and organize and throw out some and put others in neater piles, but to live through all those former selves briefly, to remember.
Yes, we should “Be Here Now” and plan for tomorrow, but yesterday is a big part of the person who opens those drawers and it feels good to see which threads are constant, which got frayed, which need some patching, which can be let go.
Mind you, this was three desk drawers. Five more await in this desk, three more in other desks (including two drawers of pocket Memo books from the last 30 years with my “to-do lists” in them!) and then there’s my four filing cabinets awaiting, not to mention a basement of boxes with things like old letters, old Orff T-shirts, more paraphernalia. And don’t get me started on my cassette tape collection with me playing piano or giving a talk or recording the little kids telling stories. Then if I run out, there’s always the entire contents of my computer desktop.
I’m imagining the first three months of retirement as a thorough cleansing, purging, reorganizing and yes, still saving these little tokens of a human life wholly lived. (I was told that Carl Orff was a bit of a pack rat also, saving ticket stubs from trains and such). It’s going to be great!
But meanwhile, I think I’ll keep working.