Stones and shells (thoughts while preparing to move)

stones and shellsPoem-sword in one hand, packing tape in the other, recycling bin in my third hand and tissues in my fourth.

(For the dust. It makes me sneeze.)

My fifth hand is clutching a steaming mug and my sixth hand is wasting time on Facebook. My seventh and eighth hands are clasped in some kind of prayer, for forgiveness and strength, and all my other hands are clapping a rhythm to keep the rest of us on task. (Futile).

Later, the right hand will order pizza while the left opens a beer and the others will rest, their weary knuckles lined up still as the stones and shells collected along faraway hills and shores, the useless stones and shells that I tell myself I do not need in this next life.

Stones and shells held in younger palms once, stones and shells cold now, but once warm with the energy of discovery. Every stone, every shell: the most beautiful, the smoothest, the whitest, the thin-as-a-dime, translucent ones, the one black as the cold Pacific on a moonless night, the round one full of holes and light as a bite of sponge cake, the tiny snail shell spiraling the way my heart does, these last days in this home where I spent more years than any other.

(One of my sleeping hands wakes, shakes a finger at me, silently chastising me for being so impossibly sentimental. I tap it with my Ikea hammer—not even that hard, just a little tap—and then feel badly as it recoils in pain. Makes me think of the witch’s foot when the house falls on her in the Wizard of Oz.)

Back on task. My extra hands snap softly, whisper-snapping a nice quiet beat, ceremonial sort of, as I plunge my two hands into the bowl of stones and shells.

It’s a big heavy bowl, overflowing with memories—the brightest, the shiniest, the darkest, the ones dyed ugly purple-pink with my own shame. A few marbles are mixed in: a topaz one, cat’s eye, like the cat who doesn’t live here anymore. There’s a pointy triangular piece of sharp-edged sea glass and an orange gem from a Mancala game, shiny as little girls’ laughter. I have to stop. It’s time. They are only stones and shells.

Such a rattle in my heart, settling and unsettling, as I move on at last.

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Elaine Olund

I'm a writer, artist and designer who thinks way too much, and tries to see the beauty in the world.

6 thoughts on “Stones and shells (thoughts while preparing to move)”

  1. Sigh!
    I can soooo relate to this post! I am having similar difficulties, sorting through boxes of stuff that has been moved from house to house, country to country as we made our way across the world. And yet, I still cannot let go of them.
    I found some of my children’s early school work, old music books that used to belong to my late uncle, thank you cards from people who actually valued the work I did, even if it was as a volunteer, memories of my one and only business trip, back when I was a business woman, in another life…
    I managed to let go of some items, but there are still many that I just can’t let go off. Not yet.
    Good luck with the move!

    1. Yes, Dawn, now that I’m settled in, the idea of ever moving again…ugh! But it also feels good to be ‘lighter’. Thanks for your well-wishes and for reading.

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