I have spoken more than once of my self-loathing about clutter. How I have longed to be a minimalist. I want to take three bins, labels them Keep, Donate, and Pitch and dive right in.
But maybe there are those of us who just can’t.
Not long ago, I had an epiphany about this in the children’s section of the library.
Epiphany. Oh, how I love words that make my heart do a happy dance. Epiphany: “an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking; an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure; a revealing scene or moment.” (from Merriam-Webster)
We experience epiphanies everyday in various sizes, shapes and weights. We often call them something else – discoveries… learning… ideas… or shaZAAM! But the big fat heavy ones, those that take our breath away… just WOW!
So, we were at the library. As Audrey played and wandered about, I picked up Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. It traces the unusual life of Harry Colebourn, a Canadian soldier in World War I, who bought and cared for a real, live bear he named Winnipeg – Winnie, for short.
Author Sally M. Walker tells us, “…no matter where Winnie went during the day, she slept under Harry’s cot every night.” And illustrator, Jonathan D. Voss, created a picture of Harry, soundly sleeping on a cot under a khaki green blanket. And under the cot is Winnie, soundly sleeping.
Harry loved her so, but near the end of the book, he realized that the best permanent home for Winnie would be the London Zoo.
As I read the bittersweet words describing Harry’s hard decision, I looked to the top of the page at the illustration and almost lost it right there in the library.
Voss had created a vision of both loss and contentment in one painting. It depicts Harry, soundly sleeping on a cot under a khaki green blanket. And under the cot is a framed picture of his bear, Winnie.
As I write this, my throat tightens up again.
It is the perfect example of the simple way Harry stayed close to the bear that he loved. He kept a simple picture in a special place. The right place.
And then came the epiphany about minimalism and memories and little things.
My studio is crowded. There’s a bed, a small writing desk, framed pictures – on shelves and on the wall – and cluttered bulletin boards.
There are also three tall cabinets, side-by-side, with doors and drawers on the bottom and shelves on the top. The shelves are f*u*l*l of baskets, books, pictures, boxes – almost every one a memory.
Ana’s baby shoes and Audrey’s Uggs. The carved wooden Don Quixote, who tilted at windmills, from Remelle. A plush purple Figment from a time I thought I could inspire kids to write. A small wooden violin, a reminder of The Touch of the Master’s Hand. Tim’s mom’s skinny wooden loon. The parasol Ana carried to shield her face from Andy’s sight as she walked from the club to the wedding aisle. The pink ceramic box with the white roof lid from Bermuda, full of cookies when we checked in at the last place Bill and I vacationed. The wooden painted XOXO that Tim knew I couldn’t live without. Printed quotes and greeting cards, hearts and peace signs of all descriptions from people I love.
Good golly, Miss Molly.
If pressed, I could get rid of those clothes that I still believe I can “shrink into.” I could live in a smaller space with less furniture and craft supplies and serving platters. I could even – yikes – loan a few books to teachers and other trustworthy friends. Maybe.
(And, honestly, I’d like an excuse to get rid of some things – you know, the gift from Aunt Martha that’s too big and, well, just too…)
But these reminders? These memories? Nope. They are here to stay.
So, thank you, Jonathan Voss. Thanks to you and a framed picture of a little bear, now I know. I’m not a minimalist. I never will be.