Today marks the 12th week since the fire. One quarter of a year. I cannot say whether it has been longer or shorter than the equivalent of a quarter of a tax year. In some ways it was two weeks ago and in others it was a lifetime ago and in yet others, it is a distant memory that has no real bearing on our circumstances now. It is not unlike moving from one place to another. You leave behind circumstances that were familiar and you get used to something else.
We have new clothes now. Our closets are not stuffed but we each have the opportunity to choose between clothes. We both had to get suits for work. I found mine in the “not returnable” section on the website of a nice store. It was $40. If it fit you could keep it and if it did not fit, you could keep it. Thankfully it fit. I have four shirts that could be worn with a suit. Two of the shirts I found on sale on the internet for $5 each. I shot my wad on the other two, they were $12 each. Because he wears dress clothes more then I, my spouse now has a dozen dress shirts and about 8 ties. We each have at least two pairs of casual pants and some tee-shirts. I have a pair of dress jean trousers. My spouse won’t wear jeans so he has some zip leg pants. We both are all decked out for winter. We each have hats and gloves and winter snow pants tucked into drawers in our temporary house. In the summer you can get winter clothes really cheap.
My spouse has three pairs of good shoes. I have several pairs of super-sale shoes. I soon discovered the circumstances that caused them to end up in the super-sale bin. One pair has a nifty little raised logo on the back of the shoe. When you wear pants, every step, the little logo thingy catches on the hem of your pants. I have yet to figure out how to get that nifty thing off those super-sale shoes so they are relegated to days when I wear my one skirt.
All of this makes me think about circumstances and the difference between having and not having. When I was 16 I embarked on a 6 month hiking journey. After a short while I decided I did not want to carry much since it was a pain, literally. I ruthlessly sorted all of my worldly possessions. I don’t remember what I did with it but I shed myself of my 35mm camera. I cut the handle off of my wooden spoon I used to cook with and to eat with. I carried one, not two books. My sleeping bag, sleeping pad and tent were already at the bear minimum so there were no gains there. I slept on a ½ inch thick piece of closed cell foam. My clothes were the lowest hanging fruit. What I kept were two pair of undies, two shirts, one pair of shorts, one pair of pants, one bra, one rain jacket, two pairs of heavy hiking sock and 3 pairs of sock liners. They were my luxury. Some of my clothes I just wore wet. I washed my shorts in the evening and if they were not dry by the morning I wore them wet. I had very long hair and a tiny comb. When I washed my hair it took me 30 minutes to comb it out.
As I look at the list I see how I made it with just those clothes but I also see how small the list looks from a EuroAmerican cultural perspective. For so many people in the world, my streamlined wardrobe from my trekking days would be two or three times the amount of clothing they have now. The number of clothes I have replaced after the fire—far more than I had in my trekking days—would seem shockingly spare to many EuroAmericans.
Life lived is a perspective. Our perspectives arise from our circumstances. Our circumstances are driven in many ways by the machine that is the global consumer economy. Being removed from that economy by having your worldly goods reduced to nothingness and then being thrust back into it by the expectations of your circumstances is jarring and disquieting. It makes it both necessary to acquire things quickly and to not acquire things at all.