Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lessons from the Glacier

 August 9, 2014

My apologies to friends and family who have tried figuring out where we are via the blog - the VIA Rail Canada system advertizes free wifi on all the trains, but apparently the free wifi isn't on the train trip from Vancouver to Toronto.  We're now in Toronto, with wifi - so I'm trying to catch up.  This is the first of our catch-up blogs, so watch for blogs to follow and bring us up to date.

We had a great four day weekend in Seattle, enjoying time with friends as well as trying to see the city through the eyes of being a tourist.  Not that it’s easy to be a tourist in a place where one has lived, but if we try to notice small details, it makes it easier.

So Pike Place Market, the public market, is always a tourist draw, with the beautiful produce from nearby farms; gorgeous flowers arranged in unexpected colour schemes; fish from Elliott Bay and all over Puget Sound; hand-made chocolates that were wonderful (check out the Chocolate Market on Post Alley, with chocolates made locally by Gosanko, www.gosankochocolate.com ); a variety of baked goods ranging from Chinese bao to French croissants and clafoutis to chewy breads and lovely scones to the world’s best cinnamon buns.  (The most difficult part is settling on one item and sticking to that.) 

And of course a Seattle landmark, the original Starbucks storefront.  Which has become something of a tourist mecca, full of visitors taking selfies in front of the famous green sign.  Yup, this is one of the ways we can tell Seattlites from visitors – real Seattlites no longer go to the Pike Place Starbucks because it is too full of coffee-wannabes.  We’ll get our coffee and beans just about anywhere and everywhere else.  And laugh at everyone lining up to take their photo or go inside, thinking this is some place important.  (Because to us, it really isn’t.)

Then back to Bellingham, and back to house clearing and cleaning.  I spent three days enjoying going through the photos and slides, dating back nearly 100 years.  Really, I found photos of my father’s mother and family before they emigrated from Europe.  His parents’ wedding photos.  Our mother’s parents’ wedding photos.  Baby photos of both our parents.  Our great-grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Absolutely wonderful family treasures deserving to be saved and copied and shared with the entire family.   

My task was to sort everything into three categories:  Photos to be scanned to CDs or drives and dispersed to everyone in the family; photos to save but not scan, or professional photos of beaches to go to colleagues; and the school reports and papers for each of us, the five siblings, which our mother had saved from the past 55 years. 

  Really, can you imagine a household of seven, moving from New York to Washington state, and our mother saving report cards and significant school papers from at least four of us at that time?  Boggles the mind, but it was important to her that we each had a record of our childhood achievements, and she held onto them for years.  These really are great fun to go through, and I spent several happy hours giggling over one brother’s story about his pet possum, another brother’s award for a carved pine car that won a race.  Then there were the slides – again, slides to scan, holding memories of summer vacations mostly to beaches, or trips to places like the World’s Fair; slides to not scan, usually showing offshore drift or the littoral zone.  (No, I still don’t know what that is.  Those slides were labeled.)  Being my father’s daughter, all sorted boxes are clearly labeled for easy scanning or not scanning.  We label everything.

My brother figured out the hose drainage thing for the freezer, and bought the connector thingies.  Richard and I bagged all the frozen items from the freezer and he managed to cram everything into the garbage can the morning of garbage pick up.  (Garbage is picked up only every other week in Bellingham, though recycling is picked up every week.) 

Anyway, we hooked up the hoses, turned off the freezer, and I cleared out all the containers that have been in the freezer since, well, probably a good seven years.  Seriously.  There were things like yogurt containers with two bites of something.  Or a half cup of chicken soup.  Or a small piece of cake and ice cream.  Things that had been in the plastic container for so long that the container was discoloured.  Containers of freezer jam that had been in the freezer so long they were dried out and almost solid pectin and crystallized sugar.

All this food – the frozen meats, the partly used jars, the tiny bits of food saved – were thrown out, either in the trash or down the garbage disposal.  Containers went into the dishwasher and then recycle bins.  And much as I hate to waste food, there was no way to tell if anything was good or not.  In fact, nothing looked like it was good anymore.  The meat probably had freezer burn.  The small items were barely recognizable.  Nothing could be salvaged.  Plus there was something frozen into the ice on the top shelf, that couldn’t be pulled out, couldn’t be identified, and only was recognizable as ice packs when all the ice was melted and drained away.

And as I dumped things into the garbage disposal, I kept thinking, what a waste.  Not only of the food, but of the effort of someone who saved this.  Or what a waste of my time, when I could be doing any number of other things.  There I was, throwing away tiny bits of food that someone thought tasted so good they wanted to eat it again.  And never did, because it was forgotten in the abyss of the freezer in the basement.

What a metaphor for all the things we put on hold in our lives.  Not just the three bites of pasta that we don’t eat because we’re full, but decide to save in the fridge and forget about.  No, ALL the things we put on hold – the vacation we don’t take because it’s too costly.  The dress we don’t buy because we don’t have an upcoming event, even though the dress makes us look and feel like a star.  The concert we skip, the event we don’t attend, the party we blow off, for whatever reason.  Sometimes it’s lack of money (which believe me, I understand!).  Sometimes it’s lack of time, that we think other things are more important.  And sometimes it’s because we think we don’t deserve whatever that good thing might be.  

All that wasted food from the freezer, juxtaposed with the fun of going through 60+ years of family photos, and almost 100 years of extended family photos – what a contrast!  The photos recorded family history and memories; some of them were my own memories, some of them were other people’s memories but I could recognize who they were, what the event was, why it was important.  The photos and papers recorded living life, going to events, celebrating milestones, and saving mementos of lives well-lived.  The freezer?  That represented everything that was saved and not savoured, but rather set aside for later and then forgotten.  Everything that was missed, for one reason or another.

So my lesson from the glacier inside my father’s freezer:  don’t save those two bites of food for later and then lose them in the freezer.  Eat them the next day, or ditch them.  Live those plans NOW.  Stop putting everything off until tomorrow, or later, or when I have time, or when I have money, or when I’m thinner, or whatever.  Stop putting anything into the abyss to hide away.  Live NOW. 

Because otherwise, someone else will be taking those little bits of unlived life and throwing them away.


1 comment:

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