Opening Up / An ending begets another beginning
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was written from Cornwall, the peninsula on the southwest coast of Great Britain.
I am preparing to leave. My cottage in Cornwall will go on the market after I leave in September. Two buyers are already interested, but no matter what, I won't let them near the place til I have gone. I'm not having it.
Nonetheless, I have begun the preparations. I've cleared bookshelves in three rooms, except for a very few which my guests, who come next week, might want to read. I've lugged them in carrier bags over to the parish house of the church and left them for reading -- recycling and profits (50 pence for a paperback) for the Cornwall Hospice.
The antique auction man will come from Truro to look at my few good pieces and, I have been told, will say forthrightly, "yes" or "no." I hope there are a couple of "yeses," but who knows? My hope is to sell the cottage furnished, because can you imagine shipping all the furniture back to the States, and then what? I live in a condominium. There are limits.
I plunged into the bottom of the old pine wardrobe that is here in the tiny space where I write, to find my worn and crusty sailing gloves -- invaluable years ago when I was racing in 18-foot boats in foul weather -- and my sailing scarf and wool hat from Scotland, bought when a friend and I went up to the Isle of Mull and chartered a Scottish Lugger. We had a grand sail on a sunny, but very cold day.
Beneath assorted backpacks and fitted-out picnic gear, at the very bottom of the wardrobe, I found my old, seldom-worn lifejacket, which I'm sure if you pulled the appropriate strings you'd find only that you continued to sink like a stone, the jacket bearing you downwards into the sea. Not even the charity shop will want that -- the thing a total misrepresentation of safety.
Don't get the wrong idea. I am completely in favor of lifejackets, and I always wear whatever the owner of the boat hands me, thus the expiration of my own.
Deciding what will come home with me is difficult. I don't want to be silly about it, on the other hand there are things that I want to ship because I love them: paintings, a mirror that I found in a gallery that has been over the fireplace mantel since the beginning. Thick, striped cotton jerseys. And a person can't have too many fleece-lined jackets can she? Think of our winters!
Some things I will give to friends, and that will be a pleasure: The blue Le Crueset pot to Sallie; the beautifully carved green warbler on a branch, with grasses beneath, to Frances. I am enjoying thinking about who might like what and scribbling my plan onto one of my many lists.
Meanwhile, I am hedging my bet. Somewhat. Tomorrow I will visit the tiny cottage on the front with Alan -- from church -- who did it up some years ago for renting. It is a popular cottage, so I am in the queue for booking several weeks in the spring. I find I can pull myself together to sell Port Cottage, but I am unable to get my mind around never being here again. So I am scouting out rental prospects for a few weeks in the spring. Summertime in the future will be reserved for time with my family, though how I will get used to 98-degree weather, I cannot imagine.
With the idea of returning in spring, the pain of leaving has lessened. No longer a sharp stab, it's now a gentle ache. Telling my friends will be the most difficult, but I'll be able to say, "I'll see you in the spring!"
It's not that I think they won't get along fine without my presence. Of course they will. It's that I'm not at all sure I can get along without seeing them, even if only for a short time.
When my friend Margaret was here a few weeks ago, we visited the church at St. Just. The original church was built in the 1200s. It has been restored any number of times since, of course, and even now they are desperate for a new roof. Fundraising events are constant.
We wandered through the ancient graveyard that goes around and up the hill away from the cove in which the church is nestled. I visited old friends, pointing their gravestones out to Margaret, greeting them in their burial grounds. I counted 10 friends who have died and are buried there.
Afterwards Margaret reflected, "I know now how deeply you are imbedded in this place, Cecily. Now I understand how much of your history you are leaving behind."
Endings and beginnings. Endings and beginnings. And so it goes.
Cecily Stoddard Stranahan is a retired psychotherapist and an interfaith minister. Her "Opening Up" appears monthly, and she can be reached at: email@example.com.