I’m making face masks, so I search through the boxes in my storage locker off the parking garage and find—almost nothing.
I used to have it all, not so long ago. Boxes of fabric, piles of notion, including seam binding and elastic. Some of them ten, maybe even 20 years old, but saved, “just in case.”
Well now, “just in case” has arrived, about a year after I decided I was getting rid of most everything. I sit in my apartment and think that I should take up a craft again, like knitting, and realize that I gave away so many bags of wool: to a school for their knitting class, to the intercultural society for their women’s crafting group, to friends and family. I have none left.
Actually, a year ago I was in a large house on a half acre in a rural area. I had large gardens and fruit trees. My children gently teased about how prepared I would be for the apocalypse: all the tools and skills, plus cases of preserves and an overflowing pantry. When there was a push for earthquake preparedness, all I had to do to meet the recommendations was fill some containers with water and add a few items to the first aid kit.
Part of that came from a general psychological need to be prepared, to feel in control of what I could be in a chaotic and random universe. Some of it came from living up north, where so little was available on demand.
In Bella Coola, you could get bread at the Hagensborg Merchantile: white sliced bread, or 60% whole wheat. So I ordered organic flours and grains through the health food group that brought a truck in every few months with our bulk order, and made my own. There were UHT tetra packs of milk in the overflowing pantry, because if something closed the road there would be no fresh dairy at the store. Our eggs came from our neighbour. If I needed a pair of pants or some fabric, I could get them at the Co-op, but there would be no choice of style or pattern. So I ordered from catalogues (pre-internet!) and when I was “out” in larger centres I would buy fabric on sale, “just in case.” There for Y2K, I saw people “outside” worried that when the clock turned over to the year 2000 all the computerized systems, based on a 2 digit reckoning of year, would collapse, as would civilization. It didn’t, obviously, but in order to be ready with 3 months of supplies, I had to— do absolutely nothing.
So after 30 years of always being prepared, of always having too much, I decided that in my new, small apartment, I would only have the essentials, what I was currently using; that I would live like a European, shopping every day for what I needed.
I have made a few adjustments. Some bookshelves now hold dry goods, because when I needed flour, or canned tomatoes, or sugar, the shelves in the stores were empty, and may be empty again. I must shop for a week at a time, instead of a day. I have planted a few herbs and greens in a planter on my balcony.
And it occurs to me that if this had happened two years earlier, I would have been in quarantine with my husband. There would have been security and familiarity, and he would have had no more opportunity to be unfaithful.
But if I was still in my large, fabulous house with the stocked pantry and the big gardens, the comfortable relationship and the secure household income, I would have missed all the adventures of the last year.
I would not have seen ancient temples at dawn on the Nile, nor floated down an Amazon River in the centre of a sunset. I would not have cried at the Yad Vashlem Holocaust Memorial Centre or the Hiroshima Peace Museum. I would not have danced in a cave bar in Jordan or with Russians on the Baltic Sea. I would not have chewed coca leaves on the Incan Trail, nor tested my spice tolerance in India.
I would not have discovered who my true friends were, and how many of them I had. I would not have met the many new friends who so enrich my life.
I would not have changed and grown, even though that growth was so painful. Birth is painful, too, but what would happen to the world without it?
So I regret— nothing. Especially not my brave travels.