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Stuff from the past

by henrycopeland
Thursday, August 14th, 2003

I just got a nice note from a girl who, nearly a decade ago, interned at the paper I then edited. She did translations and wrote some shorts and artful opinion pieces for us. She’s grown up and still writes nice essays like this one about cooking with Grandma and this one about “stuff.” Great to hear from you Zsofia.

Having just moved, I’m also pondering the meaning of stuff. In fact, I am appalled and astounded by the volume of detritus that gets pulled along in our wake. Once-worn shirts, notebooks with just a few words scribbled within, half balls of twine. We’re like garbage scows that can’t unload.

Expecting that her parents would find wonderful artifacts in the mysterious office of her now dead grandfather, Zsofi’s disappointed. “I wasn’t there when my parents cleaned out his room after his death. But I often wondered about what they would uncover, the family mementos, silly souvenirs from trips, or secret diaries. I was hoping for some stuff that represents who my grandfather was and wasn’t. When my parents were done, the picture was sobering: My grandfather left behind 20 bags of trash and about $900 in a bank account.”

Yep, I sometimes long to be a monk who travels through life with nothing but his toothbrush and boots. I guess this side of me was first articulated by Colin Fletcher’s Complete Walker, which I read like a bible when I was 14. I remember being enchanted with the idea that drilling holes in your toothbrush handle could trim hundreds of pounds from your total hike. OK, perhaps this afternoon I’ll throw out some of those boxes of computer wires and notebooks. Perhaps.

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