Packing Memories

I’ve had the strangest feeling about moving lately, that I’m not so much packing belongings as memories and layers of personal and shared history. And if I had a more efficient/useful/reliable way to accomplish the memory thing, there would not be so many things to find boxes for!

For instance, the wind chime, a gift made by my friend Ellyn that reminds me of her warm and wonderful heart every time I see and hear it. Or the beaded talisman made by Muriel to guard my studio door. Or the metal frog fountain-head from our pond in our Albany home, dating back to when the boys were into tadpole-ing and bringing critters home to take up residence there.

The boys (well men now) are a great deal less in need of these reminders of childhood than I.  They are too busy writing the big scripts of their lives, while I am enjoying the reruns.

So these things got packed today along with birdhouses and nests and rocks from my collection. The nests that were too fragile to pack have been distributed to key locations in the yard.

This one is my favorite, nestled in the bosom of the old apple tree behind my studio, inches from the tiny new apples. The history that I leave behind is somehow as essential as that which I take with me to re-plant in the fresh soil of the north. I can finally imagine how all these mini tasks are the structure of ceremony, that of continuance as well as rebirth.

Meanwhile the evening portrait painting continues, as I pursue a variety of poses on Sktchy and much needed practice with gouache.

I have more control and dexterity with watercolor, but love coming in with the opaque white gouache at the end to perk up the toned paper and make the eyes sparkle.



  1. Wonderful post Susan. Made me sad & think of cherished memories. Lovely portraits and brilliant of you to maintain the discipline of painting daily through all this. Inspiring as always! Thank you! All the best fir your next chapter.


  2. Dear Susan,

    First, I love your portrait series. I keep forgetting to mention this. I feel so inspired to work on faces and emotions to tell some stories. Thank you for sharing this series with us. I am not sure about the toned paper and gouache, as I typically work in watercolor and pastel. I’ll think about moving out of my comfort zone.

    Second, I so understand the challenge of saving memories as you sort and pack. So many bits and bobs that I went through took me back through sixty plus years of precious moments. One thing I did was to make a list of those memories as they popped up – so I could capture those stories once settled. The other thing I did was to take photos of things that were precious to me, but I didn’t want to haul to another home. Again, I noted the photos and a few words about why the item was memorable for me so I could write a story or create a scrapbook page.
    I’ve been in my new home for about 8 months, and am almost settled and ready to walk through my lists and create my stories in writing, art journaling, or scrapbooking. This will probably fill my days for the rest of my life. And it is a joyful ambition to dig into and watch the results grow.

    All your feelings and memories and packing challenges are exactly right. Your life is in the packed boxes. Your stories of precious moments and relationships are in your heart. You will be so excited as you unpack each box and find new homes of each item. Take your time and breathe in the memories, the people, the places and the things that each unpacked item represents. This transition is a lovely adventure and discovery process as you move through each stage. And like every winter, there is a promise of spring, then a summer in full bloom, and an autumn in which to feel comfort and cozy, which follows the summer. And then you are ready to celebrate the transition, relax, maybe hibernate a bit and let the winter become another spring.

    My third thought is to thank you for sharing the photo of the bird’s nest with the robin’s eggs. To me it represented my sister Robin, and her three daughters. Symbols keep showing up to let me know she is still part of my life, even as I miss her dearly every day. Yes, memories and emotions fill our hearts as we pay attention to all the little things that color our lives.

    Susan, as you and Bob put tape on the last box and load the cars for your northern adventure, know that you, your art, your sharing, and love continue to inspire those of us who know and love you. Travel well my friend! I look forward to your spring and all the seasons that follow.



    1. Well dear Lorna, you continue to fill my sails full of delicious expectation about what is to come next. We are terribly close now to the tape on the last box. It’s raining up there where we’re going, and I can tell you, that sounds truly wonderful at this point. We move in to our new home on the summer solstice and if that isn’t an auspicious factor, I don’t know what is!
      I didn’t realize you’d moved only 8 months ago, since you sounded so settled. Must be all that thoughtful packing and unpacking with the writing and contemplation thrown in. That’s definitely the way to go!


  3. I love your portraits but your text about moving caught my eye because I moved last October and I went through similar emotions regarding the accumulated flotsam and jetsam of life. My children aren’t attached to their childhood mementoes so I kept a few items and got rid of the rest. The chimes came with me to the new home and are hanging out on the deck where we can hear them now and then. I often wonder what my children will do with the sewing and embroidery I kept because they were made by my nonna…will they want them at all? Or want about the 1934 Singer sewing machine? Or the old photo albums?

    I have realized that moving simply precipitates a first “taking stock” of keepsakes. Which ones to keep, which ones to part with? My parents began offering mementoes in their sixties. Is it possible that we want to simplify in the autumn and winter of our lives, a natural process? I think so.


    1. I can’t agree with you more Louise! I’m impressed with your 1934 Singer sewing machine! Now that and the old photo albums are worth keeping, in my opinion. I did get rid of at least a century’s collection of family silver – turned it into money – as much for the fact that I hadn’t used it in 31 years of marriage as for the monetary value. I’m old, but not so old that I can’t put off a great many decisions about what to get rid of now!


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