Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey

Passover is the story of a people’s journey from slavery to freedom. We began our observance of Passover this year on Friday evening, and will continue till sundown on Saturday evening. You can read more about this at Perpetual Gratitude: A Photographic Diary.

Stuff!

Preparing for yet another move, I am reminded of a move we made when I was a little girl.   Dad was the minister at a two church charge, the main church being in Marion.  I can’t remember the name or location of the second church, only that it was small and close by.  Every June, Dad would have to attend annual conference held at a different place each year.  In June of our third year at Marion, as usual Dad left for Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana, for the Louisiana Annual Conference of the Methodist Church. Quite unexpectedly, we received a call from Dad sometime during the week informing us that we were “being moved” to a town a couple of hours away, Greenwood, Louisiana.  The way things worked in those days was that the Bishop of the conference, along with the District Superintendents, would meet and discuss and juggle things around and make decisions, one of which was relocating local pastors.  Conference would be one week, then the following week moves would take place on a Thursday.  The relocating minister would move out of the “parsonage” on Thursday morning, and into his new parsonage and “charge” on Thursday afternoon.  That way they would have a few days to get unpacked and settled before they had to preach their first sermon at their new church on the following Sunday.  (Yup, all it took was a few days to get settled in to the new place!)

Today I cannot even imagine how we lived that way, but that is how we did it!  Of course, each church provided the house (parsonage) and furnishings for the house (congregants discards) so when a move was made, the only things to pack were clothing, dishes, and personal items.  There was no need to find a new place to live, or to give notice to landlords that we were leaving.  Even so, I don’t know how we did it.  I’ve had six weeks notice about this move which is the general “heads up” I get anymore.  Of course in this day and age, especially since I am no longer connected with the church, we have to give all sorts of people notice of our move at least a month in advance.  Utilities have to be notified so they can come in and take readings, and a new dwelling has to be secured whether it is an apartment (as is the case this time) or a house. That means a quick trip to the new place to “house/apartment hunt” and sign a new lease, or place a bid. Professional movers are given the opportunity to offer bids on moving us and then the movee (us) decides who to go with. (Sometimes it works well, other times it is a disaster!)

In the meantime the movees continue with their jobs and everyday living.  Only now along with life’s demands, the movee (me) has to start packing.  Today people (oy. . . us) have a lot more “stuff” to cart around than did people living in the ’50’s and ’60’s.  We no longer live in furnished places, so we cart around a houseful of furniture.  We have more clothes than ever before, at least three wardrobes: everyday summer, dress summer, everyday winter, dress winter, special occasion summer and winter, etc.–something that was unheard of when I was growing up.  We have appliances that were not even dreamed of when I was a child: bread making machine, Jack Lalaine Juicer, coffee makers of several kinds depending on our mood, food processors (large for meals, small for a dish or two, tiny manual for holidays–this one deserves another post).  Speaking of kitchen gadgets and appliances, we keep kosher so that means we have many sets of dishes: meat, milk, and pareve –yes, a complete set of dishes and cookware for each!  Then we also have to have separate sets for Passover (I use a lot of paper and disposables during Passover because I don’t have enough space or money for more sets of dishes!) and all of the dishes have to be packed according to set.  Professional movers are usually shocked when they see the number of kitchen boxes required for my kitchen

Now let’s talk about books.  Both my husband and I are bona-fide bibliophiles!  Between the two of us, we have thousands of books: religion, science, math, history, art, literature, poetry, children’s books, etc.  We have given away thousands of books through the years but our library multiplies anyway.  And lest you think we collect books just to put on a shelf and admire from afar, I assure you that almost every book we own was read at least in part if not entirely from cover to cover.  All this to tell you that I have a lot of books to pack. Professional movers also marvel at the number of book boxes we crate with us.  Oy. At times it is embarrassing.

With this move we are downsizing into a tiny apartment, so besides packing tons of boxes, I have to designate which boxes go to storage and what goes to our apartment.  We are giving away furniture, books, dishes, clothing–the frivolous stuff but not the items we use regularly.  Even so, I’m not sure how we’ll fit into our new digs.

There is another issue with boxes, too.  Fortunately I save boxes from move to move, so we have most of the boxes we need.  Since Richard has already left town and begun his new job in our new home, I’m left here to do all of the above.  I get an uneasy feeling when I think we may not have enough boxes because I have no car to gather and bring more empty boxes back to our home.  I’ve decided that if we have too few boxes, I’m discarding more stuff till what we have fits into the boxes that are already in our apartment waiting to be filled.

In the meantime while I’m doing all of this and plotting and planning and scheduling to get it done, I’m also in grad school.  I must keep up with my studies, too. Wow.  What can I say. Somebody needs to examine my head because this is a lot of stuff to juggle.

Looking back to my childhood, I simply don’t know how we packed and moved in just a few days time.  Life was simpler for sure, not as carefree as we oftentimes like to romanticize, but it was simpler. Today’s necessities were not even dreamed up a few decades ago.  When I was traipsing through Nicaragua many years ago, everything I needed fit into a backpack–everything.  I remember how freeing it was to be unencumbered with stuff.

Stuff, and the acquisition of stuff, creates too many headaches, heartburn, high blood pressure, stress, greed, and more.  I’ve begun paring down our lives, but as I pack, I am aware that a lot more needs to be done. Richard, if you are reading this wherever you are, do not worry that I am throwing your stuff away. I’m not. But I am getting rid of as much stuff as I can get rid of in good conscience.  It is time for a simpler lifestyle.  If not now, then when?

What are your thoughts?  What have you done to simplify your life, or get rid of stuff?  I’d really like to hear.

Spring is Sprung!

Last week my husband and I hopped the Metro into the district (as in Washington, DC) to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival.  I couldn’t wait to get to the National Mall but Richard would rather be doing a hundred other things than follow me around as I shoot photos of flowers (394 frames to be exact, but whose counting), so he ended up visiting the History Museum while I meandered around the Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, etc. etc. etc.  We met up when I was done sight-seeing and photographing, and took in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  Following that, we strolled together to the capitol building before finally heading home.  I don’t even want to guess how many miles I walked but by the time I got home and after I had a nice chat with Mom, I fell into bed exhausted,  sleeping soundly until around 4:30am.  At that time, I awoke to the cacophony of birds tweeting, singing and chatting in the holly tree outside our bedroom window.  That is always music to my ears.  This truly is a glorious time of the year.  While every season has its beauty and “specialness,” the springtime of the year has to be my favorite season by far.  The earth is coming to life after its long winter slumber and I don’t want to miss a minute of it!

photo of seder, from Wikipedia

Spring is also the season of Pesach, known as Passover to most non-Jews.  Pesach is the most work-intensive holiday in the Jewish year.  Our homes, cars, businesses, storage areas ~ everything we own ~ must be rid of leaven, chometz as it is known in Hebrew.  Every nook and cranny is scrubbed, checked and double checked for even a crumb, and it must all be destroyed.  Refrigerators are thoroughly cleaned.  Stoves are scrubbed and koshered.  Ovens are scoured.  Every cabinet, drawer, surface in the kitchen is completely cleared off and cleaned, then koshered and covered.  The floor is continually swept and scrubbed until it is so clean one could eat off of it.  EVERYTHING ones uses for food preparation or consumption is cleaned and koshered.  If it can’t be koshered, it is sold along with all the consumable food items that might possibly have the slightest hint of chometz.  The kitchen and dining area get the most attention during this time of Pesach cleaning.  But the rest of the house or apartment must be checked as well.  Every pocket in every garment is checked for small crumbs.  We even look under the beds for half-eaten sandwiches or bag of chips that a child might have left (since our kids are no longer living at home, this is not a problem.)  Clean the chometz out of bathrooms (you’d be amazed at how much chometz is in toothpaste, mouthwash and other toiletries. . .it’s all gotta go!)  Carpets are vacuumed . . . repeatedly.  Cleaning for Pesach is a long, cumbersome process.  Once the chometz is gone, Pesach cooking begins! The seder is prepared.  Hard work, yes, but well worth the effort.

Pesach is about much more than house cleaning, however. Just as I must clean the chometz out of my house, this is the time to rid one’s self of inner chometz.  As I go through the extensive preparations for Pesach, I also spend time in self-evaluation assessing the things in my life that stand between me and Hashem.  Are there unfounded jealousies that eat away at me?  Have I spoken unkind or untrue words about someone?

Haggadah: the order of the seder.

Do I run with alacrity to spend time with Hashem in prayer?  Or have I become apathetic in my devotional time with G-d?  When giving charity, have I done so with gratitude and a desire to share Hashem’s blessings with those in need?  Or have I held back with a spirit of stinginess, not giving what I could?  Have I extended hospitality to everyone who entered our home this year?  What good is a spotless, chometz-free house if one’s life reflects unholy traits?  Perfection is not the goal.  If so, I would probably have given up long ago.  Rather, this is a time to recognize our shortcomings, our humanness, and to go about the business of “cleaning out the chometz.”  As we do, we are not only preparing our homes for the Passover, we are preparing our very souls for Hashem.  With that in mind, may we all live to celebrate a chometz-free Pesach, body and soul, next year in Jerusalem!