Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Saving Photos and Old Books from the Dross

I've been cleaning out my grandmother's house since November (100 years of crap). They only way I've been about to get through the process is by salvaging and scanning old photos and memorabilia, But I've been saving the bookcases for last, because parting with books is the hardest task. Such sorrow.

So much water damage. The only treasures were old photos and even they were in bad shape. Someone got the bright idea to put them in the basement, but the windows broke, and it was a mess...

When the woodrats began a serious remodel job, they found creature comfort in our prerequisite Jesus Mary and Joseph lithographs, and old confirmations and wedding photos. And anything shiny, of course—old Christmas ornaments and beer caps were on their most coveted list.

Fire ants have burrowed and nested inside all my old childhood books in the basement—honeycombed, all that was left in most cases, were the covers.

And during May, I've also had to do the same excavation process to my cabin in Forestville (still working on it), which has has literally fallen apart (the floor buckled), and I have been tossing out most of that stuff. No time to say a proper goodbye to my clothes, and memorabilia. Carpenter ants and rats at work all these years in an empty cabin.

I was able to save my photos, and poetry books, but they too, have to go. I still need to scan, and archive all my papers there too. Letters from famous poets (Seamus Heaney), and musicians (Dave Brubeck, lots of poetry books. What to do with it all. What university would want my archives? I've a call out to Jim Carmin, poet, and special collections librarian in Portland, Or, for ideas.

As to my cabin, the landlord will remodeling it. Meanwhile... I literally have no place to go. My partner's been crazy weird. Going off his meds was a huge mistake. And I was hoping for a short respite. I'm compromised with my knee injury. So I've a limited shelf life before I easily tire. And I can't carry much, even with dual knee braces strapped down tight. I'm taking baby steps with these first books, lining them up in banana boxes. But it hurts, oh, it hurts. They say all good things come in threes. I guess it's equally true for bad things as well.

A cousin who lives in his car, writes on my Facebook page: Books are history, as opposed to digital media; they're tangible rather than someone one reads on a screen. Yeah, he's right. Visceral. They stink of old dust and vague mustiness. But their tangibleness is a hefty weight.

I'm making separate piles. Celtic Studies stuff to UC Berkeley; Literary works to SFSU Poetry Library, etc. But I've also got a lot of literary memorabilia and letters from famous poets, etc. Back in the days when we actually wrote letters! Sure, I could scan them, but what to do with the originals?

I had to laugh that generations of fire ants had nested inside all my old childhood books in the Forest Knolls basement—honeycombed, all that was left in most cases, were the covers. To think they pooped out all those storied words: Robinson Crusoe, Heidi, Black Beauty, Where they therefore the forefathers of literate generations of ants?

I can't remember who said in a poem, I am in love with books but I am uneasy with my love of books—Galway Kinnell? Anyway, I made a vow years ago to buy no more books, but they've managed to find me anyway.

Yes, I've had a life built upon a solid foundation of books that have shored me up during tough times. And otherwise, have brought me delight through the decades, even if I never read them again. Bruce Chatwin, Paul Theroux., Barry Lopez. Larry McMurtry, Edward Abbey, Alexander McCall Smith.

So many doors closing at once and no time to savor them, or write about it, the memories that are evoked by rotted memorabilia—an old worn-out crocheted rug my grannie made during the 1950s, or a broken cake plates and teacups handpainted with flowers and gold rims—are astounding. I made a pottery wall gallery along our wooden fence as a tribute to broken crockery.

It's a sobering thought to see how stuff accumulates. And culling my stuff was on the menu, but just not this soon. It seems all I've been doing is sorting stuff since November. The end is not quite in sight. Divestiture. Yes, taking photos of things. And letting them go. All my clothes are done, and bagged. I am running on naked.

Also, I want to scan and otherwise document all that other literary stuff, and let it go. And I'm so tired. Part of it is my knee, constant pain....which I block as I can't take pain killers, or Advil anymore. Supposed to get knee replacement. Guess that won't happen now. Fingers crossed (not the knees).

Ah, but the sharp scent of old books, part dust, part mold, burnt paper and printer's ink. Vellichor. But I f'ound a Peet's Free Tasty Beverage coupon in one book! Now where did I put it?

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