Painted canvases propped up to dry in the kitchen. My small white sweetheart of a dog has a limp that mysteriously disappears if she is offered a biscuit. The Great Dane has commandeered the bathroom because the tiles are cool.
Reality coming at me in chunks. Life happens to us in a non-narrative way doesn’t it? Especially if you include dreams and political weirdness or climate change in your own backyard. Or the quirky illogic of the everyday.
The housemate is off to the Karoo for a family funeral and is packing what feels like the entire contents of the household in knapsacks, rucksacks, cardboard boxes and suitcases. She is taking trustworthy Cape firewood (rooikrantz) in ungainly bundles, six months supply of toothpaste and soap, smart dark clothes for the funeral, light summery clothes in case it is hot, sweaters and jackets and thick socks in case of unseasonable snow storms, a choice of detective novels for late-night reading (she is especially keen on John Grisham and the late Tom Clancy), her own comfy pillow, her favourite barbecue tongs, her favourite chopping board, a handful of wooden spoons because nobody else in the world has wooden spoons in their country kitchen, some sleeping bags and quilts in case extra guests arrive unexpectedly, three huge enamelled cast iron pots for the hospitable wake/party after the funeral, a chiller box filed with cold roast chicken, venison pies, ham sandwiches, cool drinks, local cheeses, some gift chocolate and snacks to munch along the way. She is also taking a spare tent and an ancient Cadac gas lamp. She plans to travel with at least seven other people, one of who is bringing a deceased aunt’s sofa to be re-upholstered and a second cousin intends to take along an engraved tombstone with leaded Gothic lettering. Momentarily I thought of lending the housemate a copy of Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine which has 2 438 pages and weighs in at 23.7 kilograms (52 lb) but since she will only be away for two nights she may not have time to delve into it. She reluctantly agreed to leave the dogs at home with me.
Why can’t we travel through life without baggage? The first time I went to Asia I took along the collected works of Thomas Hardy in three holdalls, Kazuo Ishiguro novels, Schedule 5 painkillers, chilled Polish vodka, a comfort coat in thick blue wool, my own vegetable peelers and a demented alarm clock that began chirping in the airport. Fortunately I had to jettison most of this before I was allowed through customs, but as I travelled I bought books (Haruki Marukami, Norman Rush, Marguerite Duras, Shusako Endo) and Vietnamese artworks done by students in Hue, a teapot in Hong Kong, dried chrysanthemum petals, quills of cinnamon and cassia bark in Laos, porcelain dipping bowls, more books, a zendo pillow that smelled of wintergreen knee ointment, a pumice stone, Zen poetry reputedly banned in Singapore — and so on. It isn’t that I am an acquisitive person by nature, it is just some kind of ontological defence against the weightlessness and uncertainty of travel. The housemate takes along what she considers essentials , I take along my own inessentialism — this dispersed fragmented untogether self — and bulk that up with random possessions.