Friday, July 28, 2006

Unearthing the past

I just looked out the front window and was amazed to see the whole street ablaze with the wattage from my front porch light. And I'm lighting up my neighbor's house across the street like we're about to film some late night reality TV. Nobody on the block really needs a front porch light if mine is on. I think I need to pay a little more attention to the bulbs I'm buying. I tend to be a one-bulb-fits-all person. I'm surprised no one on my block has complained about insomnia recently, and I'm just wondering what this Hollywood glow is gonna do to the electric bill. If needed, I could spot a burglar three houses down from between the slats of my blinds at 2 am thanks to the light projecting from just outside my front door. The coverage is that good.

But that's not the reason I was writing. I'm writing because I've been going through some sort of super funky minimalist phase lately and the need to clear ugly and superfluous junk from my surroundings has been after me to the point of distraction. I keep finding myself at the cusp of every great idea pointed first backwards to deal with the rather un-fun, underlying stuff in order to get things ready for change. So in an attempt to head in new directions and make an area like my kitchen more wonderful, it became obvious I had to clean out the cabinets first. I thought a day would do it. That thought wasn't on target with reality.

Aside from unearthing many items I could sell, toss or give away, I began to discover a lot of memories crammed in with the kitchen junk. I’ve kept old calendars and a few old address books from back in the early 90's, and while they take up space and make a mess, I just can’t throw them away. Once in a while I go back and see what I was doing on a nondescript day "back when" and see who I was in touch with. I rarely look at them except on the very off chance I'm cleaning out the kitchen once a decade or so. I had barely begun looking through one of the address books when I found all sorts of enticing little scraps of paper of various size, color and shape. Long forgotten names and numbers from what now seems a different culture altogether were slipping from between the pages. It's almost like I dreamed those days and those people. I conjured up the old faces as best I could from their names and then found other names I had actually been trying to remember just last week. I was reminded of how many lives it seems we lead over the course of our time and how many people come and go only to be a part of our world for a relatively short time, though it seemed like forever at the time. Funny what I remember of some of the people. What do they remember of me? Do they have odd little pictures and quaint memories of specific things I said, like I do of them? Do they remember much more than I remember of those days or nothing at all because they didn’t keep their calendars and address books scrunched up in kitchen drawers?

Then I began to read the notations on the pages of the calendars. It was like sneaking a look into a past that belongs to someone else. The things I was doing seem odd and out of place now, yet were all a part of my very life and who I am today. So much daily stuff that I can now clearly see was creating a way for me to get to here. I would have very little recollection of so many of the details if it wasn't scrawled out there in my scrappy handwriting. I saw month after month of notations indicating things that had to be done because of painful circumstance when the world was upside down. Weekly events and consistent friendships were right there spelled out with ink. And I saw the evidence of time with friends and family. In those everyday events and in the names of constant friends who were our life, many of whom still are, I saw evidence of how God was taking us through to who we were to become. Pivotal days and events that would appear at the time to be just another thing to do or a reminder of where to be and when, was really much more. Each stroke of the pen signifies the moments of my life ticking by... my one and only life, the markings there are really anything but insignificant calendar notations. They tell me in part why I made it through and when I should have done more or less, where my focus was on target and where I slipped up. Looking back at our lives like that is like finding something hidden and new despite the fact that it's old and done. It's like unearthing our own history from an outsider's viewpoint, because we are outsiders to that time and place now. It’s all somewhat odd in light of today. And it’s treasure. Those were moments just like this one. It's a hard lesson to remember because even now I tend to forget that the moments today are forging who I’ll be tomorrow and who I’ll be another 20-some years down the road. What did I do today that would make an interesting archeological dig during some other kitchen cleaning in the future? I wonder. What patterns will I find in looking back one day? If the calendars of the past are any indication of what it was that defined me, then I’d better include the people of my day, the moments we shared and not just the cleaning I did. That said, it would be important to add that Casey assisted my efforts today by going online to look up the value of items I found buried there in the deep. She would try to give me an idea of whether we had anything valuable on our hands. Cally and I spent some time together shopping for college items later in the afternoon, and then we met up with some new friends who passed on a mini fridge for her to take to school. Just being together, which so rarely happens lately, we were moving one step closer to the next moment, making choices together and seeing God provide. Cally and I stopped for a smoothie, because we were within range of Tropical Smoothie. I’m starting to understand the pattern now. I guess we are required to stop there if we come within a half a mile. It was good to share a smoothie. It was good too, to drive to Paul and Lynette’s and have Paul hand over the keys to his red convertible so we could have a second car for the next two weeks. I mean it was good that they would allow God to use them yet again to meet a need of ours. As far as Cally being behind the wheel of a red convertible for the next two weeks, hmmm... well then, that could be another story altogether...

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