T and I move out of Prince Albert tomorrow morning. We leave the Western Cape and drive for 12 hours to a province called KwaZulu-Natal, to a small rural outpost located in the foothills of the picturesque Southern Drakensberg - the highest mountain range in South Africa. A World Heritage Site with a unique geological structure.
The thing I hate most about moving houses is packing. I love unpacking, hate to pack. Since March, I've packed and unpacked twice - now I've packed for the third time. But I can't deny how healthy this is for a hoarder like me. When I give it the time, I can find things that I've stored and don't need, things I thought were lost. It's nice to know they exist, even when I've forgotten all about them and lived without them for months. This is a wonderful opportunity to fight sentiments and force myself to get rid of the damn junk.
But since March, I've been carrying so little with me. Clothes that were initially supposed to be enough for two weeks of travelling South Africa, that doubled their weight when winter started, and I had to buy warm clothes. Two novels that turned into a dozen when I found a charity shop with a room full of books. My laptop. That's all my assets for the temporary residence here. The funny thing is, I know I will develop a sentiment towards them in time.
However, as with people, things can be missed too. I miss the guitars and harmonica I left behind, miss the vast paperwork of research and texts of old writings that helped arouse the muse in times of writer's block, and of course, my boat. But what I think most about is my book collection.
I'm inclined to confess here on my little internet platform: I don't find it easy to read a good book and put it aside. I get a book hang-over and need time to heal. I'm not good at breakups. Occasionally I like to pass by the shelves and flip through books. Take a look, maybe read a few sentences, see my little notes, find the bent pages that reveal in what parts I fell asleep.
In my hometown, I have a readymade cabin. It's a small space, where I can run away to whenever I run out of money, get drained of the rat race, or need a quiet place to write. Due to its small size, and the number of books it contains, I get interesting responses from anyone who walks in for the first time.
"Wow, how many books do you have?" Some ask, "Oh my god. Say, have you read all of these?"
And in my heart, I answer, "I plan to…"
"You're not serious. Are those two copies of the same book? What for? And why don't you donate the old ones, you have books coming out of their bindings."
And in my heart, I answer, "It gives them character, don't touch..."
"Do you have an obsession? And you still sort them by size and by author and genre… What, you spent all day organising your library? Do you have no life?"
In my heart, I answer that I do.
I have hundreds of different lives. I've visited Nazi Germany and have seen the side of the Jews and the side of the Germans. I've travelled the South Indian Ocean to Lilliput and Blefuscu Islands. I found the nation of Narnia and even been to Wonderland. I've met sensitive monsters, fascist pigs and a hill of rabbits. I've wandered all over Alaska with a wild wolfdog, explored Victorian England and witnessed the American Civil War. And That's only the shelves. I have whole worlds under the bed, on the dresser and desk, in the closet and drawers - everywhere.
I don't lack self-awareness, I know I'm hoarding. I call it collecting to sound sophisticated, but I have books that I don't even like, sitting on my shelf and get an eye roll every time I see them. My inability to deal with the discomfort of letting go of things lies in a place that to this day, I haven't been willing to let go of. I inherited it from my dear father, whose small office is proof of every reckless purchase over the years. Why let go of things, when you can store them? And not just things, but also emotions, memories, smells. I have a bottle of perfume I received for my 14th birthday. It's costly, and I can't afford to buy it. I sometimes enjoy sniffing the cork just to be filled with nostalgia. I have mountains of paperwork with drafts of stories I've handwritten over the years, that since then I've edited on a computer. I have a harmonica that hasn't worked for a decade, but once a container of incense sticks fell on it. Since then, I inhale it sometimes, and it takes me back to jam sessions where I played and felt the lavender fill my lungs.
My irrational sentimentality is nothing more than a portal to the past. The past is a world people forget so quickly, and I cling to it because it's my story.
Some call it materiality, some call it dependency, some may even call it story-obsession. Whatever you call it, one way or another, I'm a hoarder. And like any hoarding rodent, it doesn't take me anywhere. I run in my small glass tank inside my small wheel just for the sake of running.
But while being here, I left not only my belongings but also my hoarding behind. Being always in motion has forced me to give up things if they're not worth the effort to carry them everywhere. The combination of nomadism and hoarding can't exist. And now I have no chance to hoard, and I'm beginning to believe that the place not occupied by things many years old, is filled with new thoughts and creativity.
Brand new stories.
It's no secret that I'm not the only person in the world that hoards the past and stores it in a room, only for the sake of sympathy. But I'm glad to be compelled to let go.
As I've come to terms with being a hoarder for so many years, I've come to terms with the minimalism of nomadic life. After all, these objects are only significant when around me. Let it be that when I return to my cabin in Israel one day, I'll be able to find the strength to get rid of all the storytelling-junk, and make room for more books.
Oh yes. I don't give up the books.