Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Unpacking is harder than packing, because unpacking is creative. You have to decide where everything goes; you have to create a new structure, a new home.

Packing is destructive--you're taking pictures off the walls, emptying closets. Unpacking, you have to decide where to hang the pictures, which wall to put the bookcase against, what to do when both of you have perfectly good sets of cookware.

It's always easier to destroy than it is to create. There is something fun in destruction, something powerful. By destroying you are declaring, "I can do it again; I can do it better if I want to."

Creating is full of questions. Does this look better here? What about over here? What do you want to do about...?

It is sweet living together, even if he's been working days and I've been teaching evenings, so we've had to make do with stolen half-hours between work-shifts or before bed.

Last night I subbed at The Writing Salon, and saw my old student J, who emigrated from the countryside of China. She always reminds me how good I/we have it, she is always inspiring, a testament to true grit. The piece she brought in last night was about her grandmother's bound feet. For a thousand years, until about 1911, all Chinese women had their feet bound. J described the process in excruciating detail, the broken toes and heel, the oozing wounds to the feet that would not heal.

Despite being in constant pain from her feet for eighty years, J's grandmother bore eight children, hauled water, cooked over a wood fire, and scrambled up the mountainside with her babies clinging to her to escape invading Japanese soldiers.

Can you imagine--a thousand years of women with crippled feet? Every single woman in the country? A thousand years of little girls subjected to that torture, cut off at the ankles, never able to run or jump rope, or enjoy the freedom of walking comfortably on the earth? A thousand years of women cut off from their own natural physical power?

Today, J walks three miles to work, three miles back, every day, and always appreciates her big comfortable unbound feet, shod in running shoes. I will think of her when I walk around the lake this afternoon.


Lynn said...

I live in a small condo community at the edge of a wooded preserve in Kalamazoo, MI. Yesterday our neighbors moved to a retirement home. He was a Lit. prof, and is having memory/health issues. She is determined to get them to a safe place where there will be care available when needed.
He doesn't want to leave, and was standing outside yesterday, after she left with the movers. I stood with him and tried to offer any comfort I could. He was so sad and unhappy---had to leave half his books behind and it was tearing at him. (He told me he'd hidden an extra box of books in with his wife's boxes, to take a few more than he was allowed.) I thought about all the times I'd moved, weeding out and discarding, how I hated to leave even an unimportant book behind, how I almost always left something that I later regretted terribly. May moving be a source of new order, pleasure, etc. for you.

Alison said...

Thank you, Lynn! It's actually my boyfriend who has had to do the moving--in to my house--so it is joyful, but at the same time stressful. I helped him all weekend, and we packed up zillions of boxes and took apart his artist's loft. Now the living room, dining room, bathroom, hall and foyer in my/our house is filled with boxes, and he is re-constructing his study, screwing together desks, finding new places for all his stuff. It's exciting, but a lot of work--we're both feeling weary.