June 7th, 2010

Old_suitcases Yesterday I was pondering my huge duffel in the guest room/staging area. The bed was covered in smaller bags with toiletries, a blanket, towels, bathrobe, and an egg crate mattress cover. A fan and a desk lamp presided over the whole pile. “That’s a lot of stuff for ten days,” I said to Wayne.

“Yes, it is,” he said helpfully.

“You think I have too much,” I said, waiting for him to contradict me.

“It’ll be a good conversation starter,” he said.

I considered that. It is probably good for a writer to arrive with emotional baggage. When they see all I’ve packed, my new classmates will see how messed up I am inside and totally want to be friends with me.

“Will this even fit into the room?” I wondered aloud.

Wayne shrugged.

In my defense, the Bennington Writing Seminars residency booklet suggests the towels, blanket, bathrobe, lamp, fan and mattress cover. Also, they say to bring slippers and various athletic equipment, though from the schedule, it looks like I’d be lucky to sneak in half an hour a day of recreation, including weekends. Yet, here is my yoga mat, hula hoop, hiking boots, and hiking pack. In the duffel are all the outfits that go with these pursuits, even though I haven’t exercise in months, but I think it’s likely I’ll start again at the residency.

I look at the toiletry basket with all it’s mini bottles and travel sizes and muse that I’ve cut them down to a pretty reasonable amount. Except for the two huge bottles of sunblock. I mean, can your really ever have too much sunblock? There’s the sunblock 70 for my face and the 15 for the rest of me.

What seems ridiculous, even to me, is this mammoth duffel. How will all those clothes even fit into the dresser? (And I wonder if there’s a closet and perhaps I ought to bring hangers.) I’m imagining a small dorm room, and me tripping over all my junk. Aloud I say, “These are dorm rooms, though. People fit a whole year’s worth of stuff in them.”

For a weekend yoga retreat, once this year, I packed really light. In the email the leaders suggested that packing light is freeing. They were right. I managed to bring only what I really needed, and I was able to use the same clothes and shoes for multiple purposes. For two nights, I packed everything into a small duffel. My friend Evynne, who was my roommate asked how I managed to pack so light. I smiled with pride and shrugged. I have never been able to repeat that, though.

When I’m packing, I try to think of every possible scenario. It’s summer in Bennington, VT. That means it might be hot and I might want to wear a tank top every single day. Then again, it might be cool enough for a short sleeved shirt. Or, I might start with the short sleeve and change into the tank top. Most days I’m sure I’ll wear shorts, but in the evenings, for the readings, I’ll probably want jeans, or pants. Maybe some nights I’ll want a sweatshirt or a long sleeved shirt. I packed laundry detergent and some quarters I scared up from around the house, but I don’t want to do laundry. That means I packed ten tank tops and ten short sleeved shirts. Not to mention twelve pairs of underwear. (What if I am working out?)

I guess that means my problem is primarily with the clothes and shoes. This is particularly weird because it’s not like I buy a lot of clothes and shoes compared to a lot of women. Okay, there are a lot of items in my closet, but that’s because I have issues with throwing things out that are not threadbare, stained, and way too small, preferably all three. In my mind, each item represents something I might be looking for at some unspecified time in the future. Packing is the same. What if I really wear a tank top each day? It’s true that it is embarrassing to be seen in some of those items in my closet and if pressed, I might admit that in the past five or ten years perhaps I haven’t found a time when I needed those particular garments. Really, I’m planning to go through my closet again. It’s just that if I really threw out all the things that I don’t wear and don’t want to wear, I’d have to go shopping, and I hate shopping.

Which brings me to another packing issue: I don’t want to leave anything out, because I don’t want to have to go out to buy it. I won’t have my car with me anyway. And, since Wayne’s driving me, there’ll be tons of room to bring everything!

Then again, I think of other trips when I go to pack to return, and the pile of clothing at the bottom of the drawer, or still in the duffel bag, that I never used. It dawns on me that maybe 20 shirts is too many for ten days. Maybe I could get away with 12.

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