31st July, 2014.
Jessica Eve Watkins.
On Sunday night, while my best friends were at Secret Garden Party riding joyful waves of MDMA, I scrubbed the walls of their mouldy bathroom for two hours. I packed their shampoos and incense sticks into boxes, and got into their bathtub barefoot to bleach the layers of dirt and skin cells off the porcelain. I scrubbed their toilet bowl. Pulled warped birthday cards and blue-tack from the walls. Collected old tampon wrappers for the bin. As I cleaned, I listened to a scratched Ella Fitzgerald CD at full volume, sang along to the songs I knew, and felt really fucking great about life. Felt all the joy that arises during these selfless acts I so rarely perform.
These friends of mine have just let me sleep on their sofa without an iota of guilt-tripping for six weeks. I have been homeless, and they have made me feel beyond welcomed and loved. They have listened to my philosophising, poured me glasses of wine, read me stories, handed me decks of angel cards, danced around the kitchen with me, cried on my shoulder, and handed over numerous mugs of earl grey. Now they are moving on to new abodes, and I too am being pushed onto my next step, whether I am ready or not.
On Tuesday it takes five of us to transport their piano down the front steps. We load George’s jungle of potted plants into a van, while he frantically takes cuttings from a rubber plant and repots it, in the hope to spawn a newborn. We stop for tea and cake, load more boxes, lug them outside in the baking city heat. Everyone is feeling pensive, leaving a stage of life behind, feeling older. Mostly though, we are far too busy to settle on a changing world for too long.
On Wednesday I arrive at my dad’s house. He has recently sold his beautiful, ancient barns to a family who want to build a new home in them, and is moving his things out of their way. New life wants to flourish. It’s a move loaded with layers of sadness, loss, guilt, and change. This is difficult territory, he’s angry, he’s on edge. I listen to him moan at me while we scrape each of his thousand stone-tiles free of moss and rot, pile them onto a cart, and unload them on the barrier of what was once his land, but now belongs to a stranger. I am reactionary, I’m slipping into the moody-daughter role that I occupied throughout my teens and early twenties. We are cut from the same temperamental tree, my dad and I, and it’s a blessing and a curse.
The physical exercise of hacking the dead rot and skeletal woodlice away from the decent stone, paired with fresh country air, calms us down, and within the first hour we have joyfully chiselled away old angst and confrontation, replacing it with jokes about, well, stone tiles. As the light begins to dim I realise three or four hours have slipped by and I am in no rush to leave this bonding work behind.
On Thursday – today – I drive over to my mum’s house, and help her load up her car with boxes. She too, unbelievably, is moving. Deadline tomorrow, August 1st, like all the others. We drive back and forth to her storage barn, dropping off hampers and baskets of clothes she will never wear, fabric, yoga mats, briefcases, and kitchen equipment. She cannot believe she owns so much stuff. I tell her it’s normal, but that doesn’t make it less depressing. What is all this crap? Why do we hold on to so many remnants of ourselves, and for so long? I can see it bringing her down, literally, as she staggers under the weight of another load. She is not an unusually materialistic person, just another westerner who mysteriously magnetises every single cooking utensil, seven blank sketch pads, and two crates of bathroom toiletries. It’s familiar to me – I have my own life filled with crap, too. I want to tell her to get rid of it all, but she wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t, either.
At the start of next week, I too am moving. I’m catching a plane to France, completing the ring of change for what feels like everyone I know. Some kind of planetary shift up above has us all buzzing about like a bee hive right now, beckoning in waves of change and newness. Life is not waiting for any of us. I have unpacked everything from my temporary sofa-home into my childhood bedroom, keeping only a suitcase and my guitar with me. I donate two car-loads to the charity shop, but am not yet ready to renounce all my possessions. I still think perhaps there will be a day when I will wear that all-encompassing virginal Amish dress, and my original 1980s slutty cheerleader’s outfit, so I hold on to them. We’ll see.
As I walk away with my travelling bag, I remember this wonderful lightness in my step. I have everything I need, wheeling along right behind me. I have a tent to sleep under, a sleeping bag to rest in, a guitar to play, a passport to cross borders with, some trainers to take me running, a laptop to inspire me, and several summer dresses. I’ve got an old metal St Christopher pendant (patron saint of travel), a clear quartz crystal belonging to Harper, and a hand of Fatima amulet, all wrapped around my throat for protection. When it gets cold I will pick up a coat. If it’s wet I’ll squeeze under someone’s umbrella. Right now though, the sun is shining and I am free. I have just witnessed acutely the damage that our accumulative STUFF does. I’ve heard more swearing than I can remember. I’ve seen my friend catch the flu from all the pressure. When are we gonna learn to just LET IT ALL GO?