I was struck the other day by the number of different kinds of maple leaves I saw in all their magnificent fall colours blowing along the roadside. I picked a few up, I’m a bit of scavenger when it comes to Nature’s prettier droppings, thinking that I would identify them when I got home. But then I remembered I’ve packed my books, including Trees of Canada. I must have found six different kinds including Japanese maple which doesn’t really count, and the ubiquitous, prolific, invasive Norway maple. The others, which I don’t know the names of, the native species, are all different shapes, including one which is just like the one on the Canadian flag so I think it may be sugar maple.
The book of trees is just one of the hundreds I’ve packed in boxes scrounged from the liquor store in preparation for our eventual move. Already I’ve found it inconvenient, so I suppose that’s a good sign. My collection of books is a living, useful one.
The process of getting rid of one’s possessions is an interesting exercise. In some ways it is like peeling away the layers of an onion. Each time you think you are reaching the core, but then another layer is revealed. Sometimes I think that there will be nothing left, but I remain hopeful that at the heart there is a little green shoot, the germ of a future life.
Although the “purging” has been difficult, somehow it is becoming easier as I travel this path. I think the turning point came when I took my university textbook copies of Keats and Shelley and placed them on the pile of books to leave my house. From then on whenever I hold a book in my hand and begin to waver I think to myself, if you can get rid of Keats and Shelley why can’t you say goodbye to this? A different, more positive, atmosphere now surrounds the whole adventure. My motives for keeping or discarding are becoming clearer.
For example, I was planning to keep a particular fantasy trilogy for some reason, although many others had been put in the goodbye pile. I thought, maybe I should try reading a few pages to see what I think of these books now. I have to say I didn’t even get to my goal of reading the first forty pages. It was enjoyable enough but not anything I now feel worthy of precious shelf space.
So why had I felt so attached? I understood at last it was only because I had had so much trouble finding the third volume in the trilogy. Somehow that effort had given those books a greater value in my mind. This insight made it easier for me to say goodbye, and I had learned an important lesson about myself and why I think I value some things. Now I know that I must question my motives, my feelings of attachment, all the time.