Monday, November 23, 2009
The Camping Pot Incident
There is a huge turnip in a Charles Shaw wine box at the end of my driveway. I have no idea who put it there, or why it's there. Is it a gift? A suggestion for my yardscape? Will someone be returning later, expecting soup? For some reason seeing the turnip in the box reminded me of running over a camping pot and a sorry-looking yucca "tree" with the family car when I was a teenager. The turnip at the end of my driveway rivals the yucca. Really, it does. Bulbous base...not much in the way of greens...lurking in the dark.... Plus the yucca was scrawny, and this turnip is huge. So yeah, I could make the case. Why a wine box reminds me of the camping pot is not exactly clear. They both hold stuff, but my trash can makes regular appearances at the end of the driveway and it has never reminded me of a camping pot. I guess the brain just sometimes yields curious connections. I should, perhaps, explain that I ran over the yucca and camping pot not because I was inebriated or taking the driveway turn too fast, but because I was still new at driving and terrible at backing up. It was a look-over-your-shoulder-turn-wrong-and-panic-with-your-gas-foot maneuver. My parents didn't seem to care too much about the yucca. Perhaps they'd considered taking it out themselves and I'd just saved them some time. And since by some miraculous stroke of luck I hadn't caused any harm to the car, I got off easy with the yucca. It was the camping pot that I caught heat for. It was our big one. Some sort of prized aluminum, no doubt. One that I needed to buy a replacement for. I should have just chucked the pot in the trash with the promise that I would buy a new one. After all, what good is a smashed camping pot? But I took it inside and put it in my closet instead. And every time I opened my closet door, there it was, reminding me. Making me old. I didn't use that phrase at the time. It took me many years to coin it, but the Camping Pot Incident was the event I trace the feeling of a nagging burden back to. It was like the turning point of responsibility, where instead of hoping I'd get out of something I'd been told to do, I was now weighed down by the fact that I hadn't yet done something. It's different than a conscience. It wasn't about having done something wrong. It wasn't even about not having done something to make it right. It was knowing I had to take care of something...and putting it off. I look at my life now--at all the things I've been meaning to do, all the people I've been meaning to contact, all the promises I've yet to fulfill--and I wonder at the unappreciated simplicity of a life where buying a camping pot could free me from the sense that something was "making me old". And I would pontificate on this some more, because I find the whole concept of avoiding things that "make you old" quite compelling, but Mark just walked in with a Charles Shaw box announcing, "Someone left us a present!" Really. So I better go. I think he's planning on making soup.