I’ve almost finished with my dollhouse re-vamp as part of spiffing my office. The dollhouse had become like a beach at low tide, catching every small bit the waves cast there. Many of the items in the dollhouse are from my childhood, many handmade by my friends and me. (I’ve blogged about my dollhouse here.)
Yesterday I took everything out, cleaned the shelves, and am sorting through it all, deciding what to keep. Not all of it, but the most important bits.
Today I realized that Maude, the mama bear, doesn’t have an art studio (which she had when I was a kid–a separate cardboard box with canvases, etc.)! And there’s a perfect spot for it. So now I get to make some stuff.
There’s something so calming about taking time with this.
And while I should be decluttering other (larger) things for an imminent yard sale, too bad; this day has been perfect.
A week ago, I returned from the Omega Institute where I attended Lynda Barry‘s 5-day workshop called WRITING THE UNTHINKABLE. (I know that I will be writing about the experience for a long time, so I’m not even trying to encapsulate it all here. I do know that the time I spent in that workshop will affect my work and life in ways I can’t yet imagine, and probably for the rest of my life.)
Barry’s work had us considering what is an image but here “considering” is the wrong word: instead of an intellectual brain-ing activity, we considered via specific remembered images…with the moving hand and what she calls the back of the mind, and our friendly Professor Andretti (her workshop code name) guiding, prompting, timing us. We worked like dogs! (It’s a cliche, but also an image, and a puzzling one: aside from working dogs, do dogs work?) On the drive home, almost every song I heard had a mystery in it.
Images are everywhere, and I’m almost 50 years old, and I feel like I am just now noticing this!
Doing this work was the kind of experience that opens the senses. I’m noticing so much, so much more fully, in a more embodied way. I have not yet opened my composition book where the work from the workshop is contained. I’m following Professor Andretti’s advice and waiting, so the images have time to coalesce. It’s a magic process, and I don’t want to disturb it.
But I did open a small box of stuff that’s been sitting in my office for almost a year. The box is full of items from my (long-gone) childhood dollhouse. I still have most of the contents and inhabitants (Steiff and Schuco mohair bears, mostly, and some other species). A couple years ago, I moved the things out of boxes onto a bookshelf in my office, and having it out in the open makes me so happy. But today’s box was undiscovered until my mother found it at her house last year. (When she gave it to me, I opened it and looked through quickly, but didn’t have time to really peruse it, so I put it away. Now I am wondering if I put it off not only because of busyness and inertia, but maybe also something like the composition book from the workshop: maybe in that box there was still something magic happening that needed to be undisturbed.)
Tonight when I looked through the tiny items with my daughter, among the treasures (some pictured below) I found a tiny sample bottle of Estee Lauder Youth Dew. (Lynda Barry writes and talks about how sometimes an image, a song, will transport us back to a forgotten corner of our lives. If you are a child of the 1960s and 70s and you don’t believe me, try smelling some Youth Dew!)
This is one of those times I’m glad I’m a packrat.
I just read an interesting story about piece of history owned by a psychologist, Dr. Barry Lubetkin, who treats hoarders. From this New York Times article:
“A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Lubetkin was idly trawling the Internet for information on Homer and Langley Collyer, urban hoarders known in the 1930s and ’40s as the Hermits of Harlem.
Elderly scions of an upper-class Manhattan family, the brothers had barricaded themselves in a sanctuary of clutter at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 128th Street.”
Turns out that Dr. Lubetkin owns the face of a clock that his father bought from the Collyers’ estate in 1947. (If you have not heard of the Collyers–and I had not until today–they were Homer and Langley Collyer, who, according to the oracle Wikipedia, “were eventually found dead in the Harlem brownstone where they had lived, surrounded by over 140 tons of collected items that they had amassed over several decades.”)
All this reminds me of a recurring dream. (There are two kinds of people in the world: people who recount their dreams to others, and people who cannot stand it when others recount dreams. If you are from the second category, please stop reading now.) My dream takes place in various settings, but the plot is always the same: I am looking around in a junk shop (or sometimes it’s an antique shop–there is a distinction, in life and in dream logic) and there, for sale, I see the Steiff and Schuco bears and various other toys (most often mohair stuffed animals) from my youth. I always have to buy them back, and it always seems strangely unfair. (And in a weird way, this recurring dream is one of the original germs that started me writing my novel, The Watery Girl.)
In real life, I still have those bears. I used to think I wanted to be buried with them. (I’m not kidding.) Interestingly (to me), lately I’ve been thinking about the difference between collector and hoarder. (There IS a difference, right?) For years now, my bears have been in boxes with the furniture and clothing I collected (and often made) for them when I was a child. Soon, I hope to realize the waking dream I have of setting up a dollhouse for them, so that I can look at them. So that they will haunt my waking as well as my sleep.
(And it’s not a coincidence that I write this post on the day that, at her request, I moved my six-year-old daughter’s dollhouse and all its contents from her room to the attic. She’s not ready to get rid of it yet, but she never plays with it, and wants more space in her room. There is something here. Something about generations, echoes, and ghosts…in finding this article about the clock face, and in my recurring dream plot, and in my writing this post today. Something that I need to mind.)