The Process of Packing

The Process of Packing

It Belongs in a Museum!

Today, the fine people at the Latvian American Shipping Line will be coming to my house to take away the crate of possessions that I have deemed important enough to take on my excursion to Latvia.

The packing process has been going on in my mind for months now. What to take, what to leave, what to throw away? How does one condense the contents of his life into a 1 meter cube? How do you take a three-bedroom ranch house and shove it into a small box to send across the ocean? It was not easy.

I spent a good ten hours yesterday going through the house, gathering things, and boxing them up carefully. I started with the practical, like my home office which I figure will be my number one need in Latvia. I plan to do a lot of writing and such, so I took my computer, monitor and printer along with assorted gadgets. Disassembling the iMac made everything feel so real.

I loaded up some kitchen stuff, a few plates, bowls, silverware and utensils. Just in case I want to cook and eat while I’m there.

I kept thinking… what do I want to bring that will be hard to replace? What do I want to bring so I can just start living right away? Maybe I packed too much. I guess time will tell.

Piles of Writing

The hardest part of the packing process was my old journals. I have a plan… I have been writing all my life, but I have never taken the time to really work through my writing, edit it and polish it for possible publication. I see my time in Latvia as a chance to do this. Away from the distractions of my normal life. In a new place with a new perspective, I can find the time and grit to work through my writing. Organize it. Develop it. Publish it.

But the process of digging through your life, one notebook at a time… seeing all the depression and anxiety that you went through in high school, college, two marriages and beyond? That’s pretty potent stuff. I found myself recollecting all these moments that I had forgotten. I even have a bulletin from my baptism ceremony. Who keeps all that stuff? Liesma, that’s who.

I went on a little philosophical thought meandering about memory. I know that photographs lock in memories. I can’t tell at this point if I remember Christmas in Yutan, or if I just remember the pictures that I have of those times. Now, after reading so many of my old journal writings, I wonder if those locked in the memories that I have? Is writing just like taking a photograph? You write down the story, and then it digs a deeper groove in the old brain matter? So you’re more likely to recall it later. And of course, the memory is only as good as what you’ve written, so it may not be exactly what happened. But it never is, is it?

I have three main projects that I plan to work on: 1) The story of Vitauts. Everyone says you should write his story, and I plan to take time to do this. I don’t know what form it will take, but I’m going to give it a shot. 2) Liesma’s writing. Mom left behind scraps of her own thoughts and written work. I plan to organize that and put it together, maybe just for our family, but maybe there is something there behind the words that others would find interesting. 3) My own work. I have written numerous stories, poems, plays, and even a couple of novels. It would be nice to organize them and see if there is anything good among all that drivel.

I keep thinking of the museum analogy. If all the paintings in a museum were just kind of piled up in someone’s basement, you wouldn’t think much of them. But the fact that they have been catalogued and organized makes them more worthy of our viewership. So much is in the presentation. What is a work of art leaning against the wall in some old house? What is a Rembrandt that has been rolled up and put away in a closet somewhere? Maybe I can make my writing more presentable.

So last night, I packed up all the boxes, taped them shut and carried them to the garage. This morning, I did the hard work of stacking the boxes in the crate, soon realizing that space was much more tight than I had imagined. I had to do some strategic shoving and played a bit of tetris to make everything fit, but I think it’s good. I like the fact that most of the stuff is so tightly packed because it means there will be less shifting, and hopefully, less breaking as the crate makes its way from Nebraska to Daugmales pagasts, Latvia.

After sealing up the box, I heard the Kill Bill whistling song. I remember that there was something I used to own that played that song, but I don’t know what it is exactly. Maybe my old flip phone? Hopefully, the battery will die and it won’t cause some person on a ship to go crazy and just start the crate on fire. I could see that happening. “Where is that whistling coming from? Janis, bring the torch!” 


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