Arriving in Pakistan two weeks ago, an eerie feeling fell over me as I re-entered the rental home which I had left abruptly in October 2011 after three years. Soap bars by basins, bongos by my mic stand and boxes of bottles (all thick with dust) awaiting the recycling walla, were reminders of just how quickly I was snapped up from my former life and tossed into quite a different one back in Canada. (See “Follow The Poet…Following His Heart”)
The chills that cooled my blood even in 40 centigrade humidity as I looked upon a world I had not seen in almost twenty months, were queer but recognizable ones. Having been executor to my uncle’s will back in 2010 ~ delegated to decipher and distribute his belongings after his death ~ then helping assess my own mother’s possessions after her passing last summer, I have become all too familiar in recent years with the chimes of mortality that clang in the spirit and pang the heart while sorting and sifting though decades of an individuals personal things. Only these past several days, the odd shivers and goosebumps have been accompanied by a Twilight Zone twist. Wandering through our decorated but deserted home, it was as if, once again, I had been thrust into the uncomfortable position of having to inventory belongings from a life cut short…only the items around me were icons to my own past memories and the death that seemed fitting of lamentation was that of a dream I worried I may never see again ~ a childhood wish for a simple life in a rural environment. Living in Abbottabad my family and I were on the doorstep of that wish, actively looking into land and getting closer each day to living more and more self-subsistingly. Overnight, we were back in a suburb of North America, our basic living expenses multiplied many fold and the necessity for more time on the road with my music a rude reality.
Naturally, my heart has no regrets about shifting my primary residence back to Canada to be with my mother during her last year, or to stay near my father now in the absence of his life’s partner. The relocation has been wonderful for my wife’s studies, my daughter’s cultural growth and my relationships with siblings and old friends. But deep in the closets of my mind, there is a fantasy in fear of being forsaken…an echo of George Bailey’s prayer from the pub seeking a way to fulfill my obligations, while still staying true to hopes for my life: “Dear God….I’m not a praying man, but if you’re out there…show me the way.”
Being back in Canada, it has been a struggle to keep embers of my dream for a rural life alive. Making fire from flint and sticks is not easy ~ it takes patience, determination and a deeply innate desire for warmth. Day by day, month by month I have been rubbing away with dedication and every once in a while, on a clear day ~ I see the beginnings of smoke rise before my eyes and I believe, if I can just keep trying, the spark will fly and the dream will burn. It’s just a matter of time ~ God willing.
My mother would often quote the well known saying to me, her impatient son: A watched kettle never boils.
Watching time ~ time watches.
When my grandmother passed away in 1998, among her bedside table belongings was a bag full of old, broken wrist watches. Some had belonged to her, some to my grandfather (who passed in 1981), and some to my great grandparents (who also passed in the 1980’s). When my uncle died in 2010, among his bedroom top-drawer treasures was also a bag full of dysfunctional wrist watches. Following my mother’s death last year, not only did the bag of wrist watches from my grandmother’s house resurface, but also over a half a century’s worth of my mother’s own cracked, shattered and still time-pieces were also uncovered. “Why had they all kept these twisted hands, faces and fragments of time in bags?” I wondered. Were they preserved triggers to memories of lost minutes? Hidden away ~ as if their disposal would render the moments they once calculated as completely lost?
Last week, as I feverishly tried to streamline my own collections, what did I find in the bottom drawer of my wooden, bedside jewellery box? Several, old broken wristwatches acquired during my 40 years of life ~ an average of one for every 5 years. Looking upon each one, I warmly remembered the eras in which they were worn, then wondered ~ would my daughters one day have to find them after my death and ask why I had kept them? And with that, the effort at de-cluttering our home in Pakistan began.
Each day of my time back in Abottabad, I ignored jet-leg, rising at dawn each morning to pack and shift our belongings down to my wife’s grandmother’s house where we will now reside in an extended family arrangement during our seasonal visits to Pakistan. Through combined efforts of disposal, delegation and donation we were able to decrease our household possessions substantially. From my home office studio alone I let go of four book cases, a desk, a file cabinet, office chair and one full wall unit of books ~ now a part of a local school library. Before leaving my daughters in Pakistan with their mother to enjoy a summer with their Great Grandparents, I surveyed the small room where we stored our belongings and was pleased that all of our boxes (80% of which contain books) occupied only half the space.
Leaving for the airport last night, as a powerful and refreshing downpour washed over Abbottabad, I reflected further upon the completion of this phase of my Ten Year Simplicitea Plan ~ a successfully sizable (and only initial) cut-back of my belongings in Pakistan and the ending of my rental lease to save wasted monthly money on an overseas dwelling visited only 20 weeks of the year.
En route back to Canada now ~ apart from my wife and daughters for the next two months ~ I will set to work in studio on a new collection of songs. My first full new CD of material for since 2007. My intention is to record it completely in my home studio…. when I am not out in my vegetable patch.