California

A Penny Saved

I see useful things.

They don’t know they’re useful. Mostly, they’re lying around as trash. But in these abandoned elements, I see a project, a repurposing that can resurrect them into a new life of beauty and usefulness.

I did not live during the depression. Neither did my parents. They aren’t particularly frugal or extremely wasteful to have imparted on me my second sight. I don’t have a childhood of austerity to blame. Nor was I exposed to “do it yourself” shows on PBS or the Home and Garden network. The three-eyed crow found me for no reason. I was born with this blessed/cursed ability, my sixth sense (if you will).

In bins and tins, all over my house are things that should be on their way to the city’s waste disposal site, yet I insist on keeping because “I might be able to use it some day.” Nooks and crannies throughout my living space house fabric scraps, buttons, acorns, walnut halves, paper, old maps, corks, mesh from potatoes or oranges or onions I bought at the grocery store, feathers, leaves, moss, bark, dirt (yes, jars of dirt–oh, and empty jars too), shitty hardcover books, shitty softcover books, dried flowers, rotting produce (compost, I swear), magazines, bottle caps, rusty barbed wire, shiny wire, twine, yarn, string, photocopies of scholarly papers I meant to reread, old class syllabi I may use again, photos, cd jewel cases, floppy disks (both the little hard ones and the actual floppy ones), burlap, an old guinea pig cage, furniture of various types (but not bookshelves, I use those), broken glass, broken ceramics, broken toys, clothes that are torn beyond wear, used canvases, used art frames, French doors, things I know I am forgetting, and pallets. Lots of pallets.

I know it sounds like an episode of Hoarders, but somehow I manage to organize my 850 sq ft house in such a way the most people have no idea these “treasures” exist. I know that I am verging on the edge of obsessive (I have actually pulled things out of people’s garbage–most recently an onion plant that I put in my garden and is growing quite nicely, thank you), but I can’t stop the compulsion to not waste these potentially useful items.

I have the ability to see use in the discarded. I look at everything as if it has value. Things and people. With this gift, nothing is ever irredeemable. And the truth is that things and people respond to how we see them. If we view something as worthless, it becomes so. If we see it as valuable, it becomes (or remains) necessary and vital. Perhaps we should all cultivate this gift.

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