Yesterday afternoon I was walking through the cutest, neatest, most expensive rows of townhouses in the district. There was an older gentleman kneeling in his rectangle of dirt, clippings already in the tree boxes below, sprinkler and temporarily potted plants at the ready. I felt a little tug just below my breastbone. I should be doing the same thing.

My instinct is to pick things of permanence, things you wouldn't want to sell on craigslist. A comfortable sofa purchased new, a charcoal grill, piles and piles of books I love, heavy duty pots. Everyone from old friends to now-ex-boyfriends and party transients commented on it. "Hey, aren't you just here for a two year gig?"

The space I live in reflects and influences my mental state. I don't like being required to ignore my surroundings. By the time I moved to my current residence, I was sick of dorms, sick of never scrubbing down the stove someone else would be using in a month, sick of pretending that crate could pass for a china cabinet. I wanted to feel at home, so I made a place where I could. By getting comfortable, I permitted myself to content others, too. I planted flowers and herbs in my pots, made dinner often, had a stock of wine at the ready.

Now I need to relocate for a new job. It will be intellectually challenging, spiritually rewarding work at a far less cushy establishment. And a year from now, it will take me halfway 'round the world. Since everything I own but a suitcase will go into storage, it doesn't make sense for there to be very much. The large sofa seems a luxury now, but it's coming. Bed, too. Mom's taking back the antiques she invested in, though, and the grill will be sold to a friend with a patio just made for barbeques. The last two bottles of wine will be opened at the bon voyage blowout.

Today I filled a garbage bag and two-stack laundry basket of clothes I won't be wearing, then another bag of papeterie clutter that found its way into my nest. This is how I say goodbye to places. I resubmerge in the context, flick through my mental files by looking at paper ones. Gone is the stub from the first show I saw with a now dear friend, case studies for the grant application I withdrew, my finisher's certificate from the marathon, receipts from my favorite hangouts, notes with ingredients, driving directions, and SAS code, gallery pamphlets, boarding passes.

What I really hate to throw away is personal correspondence. Those are their words, their fingers put pen to paper that made its way to me. The first couple of times I moved in college I tried to filter out the most essential letters to save. That led me to read all of them when hours are too rare, and correspondence still falls in the same category as the rest. All I really care about are the people whose presence lingers, and these shreds of paper are barely serviceable reminders. It's all in my memory. And if it doesn't stay, maybe that's for the best. We all have to downsize, tune up, defrag every now and then.

So my friend on the far west end of P Street can set out his perennials. Me, I pulled up the weeds and turned the soil.


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