My friend Jordan, recently wrote about matchbooks. A picture of a few she liked, looked to me like match boxes. I ran into something that might be called a match book when I was traveling abroad. It was a folded piece of carton, with matches stapled in. But for all I know, perhaps in English, all containers of matches are called matchbooks.
In any case, she wrote of an old friend of hers from her teenage days, a fellow by the name of Steve, who made quite an impression on her, and they kept in touch all these years. He runs a radio show now, in Canton, which I believe is Canton, China. In some random post, he had mentioned that he started collecting matchbooks, and since Jordan had just recently begun photographing matchbooks, she started collecting some of the interesting ones, to send to Steve.
She was traveling, at the time, in India, and she said that once she got started on the subject of matchbooks, she would feel an anticipation, as she moved from one town to the next, wondering, what sort of matchbooks she might find in the next place. She said she found different matchbooks in every place she went, and often the picture on the matchbook could draw her into meditation.
Her story reminded me of my own experiences with match boxes. As long as I can remember, there was only one company that made matches here in Israel. But from time to time, they would change the graphics on the cover of the box. And after each change, the sight of an old matchbox would remind me of the period in my life when that matchbox appeared.
I don’t know if I’m a hoarder. I suppose I am, but I don’t see myself that way. But I do keep all kinds of souvenirs. Until the house gets too crowded, and then I start throwing things away. I kept the old match boxes for quite some time, because they reminded me of different periods, and I had an attachment to them, but at some point, it became a bit of a burden, and I threw most of them away. But there was one set that I especially liked. I don’t know who designed them, but there were drawings of animals on each match box. And during that time, which was in the late 80s, a new animal appeared on the match box just about every month. When I threw away the others, I kept these, and they sit on a book shelf, in front of some books in my library.
If you were to ask me, on principle, I would say, the lighter the better. Possessions weigh you down. You have to take care of them. You have to move them from place to place. You have to clean them. No, it’s much better to make do with the minimum. I have traveled on long journeys… for long periods of time, many times with just a knapsack on my back. And with a knapsack, you are quite aware of the weight that you’re carrying around. At first I had a rather large pack, so that I could fit all kinds of things inside. I used to carry books!
But the more experience I had, the more simple my possessions became. When first I started traveling, I had two suitcases. That’s because you can carry two. One in each hand. But the problem is, that you lose the use of your hands. That’s one of the wonderful things about a knapsack. You can carry a lot, and still have two hands free. But still, the life I lived wasn’t that simple. There were times when I needed a portable typewriter with me. Other times, it became so crucial not to get weighted down, that I wrote in a bound book, filled with white pages. I filled up quite a few such books, with an even handwriting, writing with a fountain pen on the paper.
But it’s been many years now, that I’ve been living in the same home. It has quite a bit of space. And you know, the more space you have, the more you can accumulate. Sometimes, it takes a sign, to get a person to thinking about throwing things out. I remember once, I was sleeping peacefully in my bed, when a shelf full of books, attached to the wall high above me, collapsed, almost burying me in books. Waking up, in the midst of the avalanche, I thought that an earthquake had finally struck our town. But it turned out to be nothing more sinister than an overweight of books.
Looking for these match boxes reminded me of how many possessions I have. All of them are dear to me for one reason or another. But at times, they are an imposition. And especially after reading of my friend Janet’s redecoration of her apartment, and the joy she felt when she started out again with white walls, made me think that maybe the time has come to lighten up. Of course, no sooner do we complete a reordering of our material possessions, than we become aware of all the things we are carrying in our minds… and in our hearts… But that is another story, that should be told another day.