Friday, December 5, 2014

Sites for meditation, sites for living, sites for having stuff

A friend years ago had a crush on this girl named Stephanie. I was seventeen at the time and Stephanie was twenty-two, and although both my friend and I felt very mature, I could still tell there was something very different about this twenty-two year old’s life. I thought my friend’s crush on this woman was a little ridiculous - a little too earnest considering the situation. Stephanie did not really seem interested in dating my friend. Stephanie confessed she was having a difficult time with her own relationship. Stephanie had a job other than going to school everyday. So I couldn’t worry that much about my friend’s infatuation with this woman; my friend’s constant pining and concern about what Stephanie thought about her.

I was not impressed by Stephanie. I thought she probably did not return any of my friend’s affection, that perhaps she was even annoyed by it, but tried to protect my friend from any heartbreak even when I thought it would probably be best for everyone if she just came out and said, you’re sixteen and it’s just not going to happen.

However Stephanie’s apartment always impressed me. Its aesthetic affects me still. The apartment was always clean. Small, its walls were white and unpainted. The hardwood floors were a light, honey colored brown. Worn down, they could have used some refinishing. Stephanie owned very little furniture and there were very few decorations. There was a couch, a chair, and a bed with a white cover. She’d hung no paintings on the walls, but there were a few plants set around the apartment, healthy and green, tendrils rappelling down from the top shelf to collect the light from a window overlooking downtown Birmingham.

I always knew that my apartment needed to look like this: simple, white, and clean. 

It never has.

I have too many things. Even now as I look around I see things that I should get rid of. Treasures on tables that I should clear to feel happier, calmer. These things come to me unbidden and I can’t escape them. At work, I have a stuffed monkey and a small spongy purple alien on my desk, gifts from coworkers. And because they’re gifts I can’t get rid of them. They just sit there taking up space and staring at me as I stare at my computer screen. But even the thought of dumping them or stuffing them in a drawer makes me sad, as if the secret world of things had desires and needs for attention and love like animals in a shelter.

I don’t make a lot of trash at all, which sometimes becomes a problem when something starts to stink though the trash bag isn’t a quarter full. But there’s still too much. And there’s still too much stuff here. Just things. Just too many things in my apartment. But I never know what to give or throw away.

There’s always more to get rid of and there’s more to buy. We all have those mental lists of things that we would like, things that would make our lives easier. I dream of new speakers and a new pannier for my bicycle. I need a spray bottle to keep some of the plants moist and a shoe rack to organize the space by the door. I want to finish building this small aquarium to fill with duckweed and Marimo moss balls. I have no idea where I would even put it. There is no more room left for plants. There’s no room for anything. And I don’t need more things. I need fewer.

I saw an advertisement for Amazon’s “Cyber Monday” specials and clicked on the link. I don’t think I knew just what to expect and most of it was uninspiring, the odds and ends of Americana. A thermos. A trampoline. A sale on fleece tops. A set of golf clubs made from plush material for infants. These are the things we could do without, the things we could buy for ourselves when we need them, on a whim, in the grocery store. There are no dreams behind these gifts. They don’t need to be on sale. They are novelties and trivialities.

And then there was the best, most bizarre item being offered up on sale on Amazon’s Cyber Monday. I said, which of these things is not like the others? It’s billed as a “Meditation Grotto of Sorrento.” Within a faux envelope of rock “carved” with roses, a statue of Jesus frowns out, the sacred heart aflame in his chest, his upturned palms punctured and bleeding. 

In the photo it looks as if the statue could be fairly large standing on this lawn, but at thirty-six inches tall, the statue actually seems awkwardly sized, as least to be out in a great open space like this. The seller describes the piece as a, “timeless, European-style grotto… [a] "destination spot" for meditation.” It’s always nice to be able to bring a little bit of classic European meditation inspiration to the United States. I can’t find any reference to a Grotto of Sorrento like this actually existing in Europe.

If I had a lawn, what would be in it? How much more crap would I have? Lawn gnomes and those shiny balls on pedestals. Cheap water fountains lined in black plastic with koi fish swimming for raccoons to eat. A garden overrun with herbs and flowers and plants growing tangle that discourages tending. A compost heap smelly and overflowing. A resin Jesus tucked away by some tree near a concrete bench. You know, for meditation.

No comments: