Navigator: The Little Things

Sometimes I’m so worried about the Big Stuff—climate change, etc.—that I forget to register the small sources of joy in my vicinity: a weird-looking bird, a melodious busker, a zany fellow commuter, or the pretty pattern of my subway seat.

I realized this after looking through the many responses to my colleague Feargus O’Sullivan’s recent ) ¤ Before Disney sprinkled corporate fairy dust over Times Square and turned it family-friendly, Josef and I worked there.” (Longreads) ¤ An exhibition featuring, like, Valley Girls. (The New Yorker) ¤

MonstaH/Giphy

What You Wrote:

In last week’s edition of Navigator, I asked readers what their relationship to stuff was and whether it had changed over time.

Stephan Monteserin was in the process of moving out of his parents’ house in Oveid, Florida, when he read my prompt. In the last seven years at this residence, he saw his family weather the aftermath of the recession and the loss of his mother. So as he reflects on his relationship with the objects in this house at this new juncture, it leaves him with memories of his mother and the childhood she worked hard to provide. Here are some snippets of his poignant email, lightly edited:

I have a collection of typewriters, bolo ties, many hemmed pants and altered shirts that she expertly touched, art supplies, cameras and books and kitchenwares, instruments, and journal full of memories, as well as everything that she packed away from my entire childhood, in her attic … To part with these feels like erasing her, but I have too much stuff. Two full houses. The objects become imbued with her memory and I am at a loss.

I connect with the idea that joy can be the motivating factor when deciding whether the stuff stays or goes. But what if joy is not the only motivator? Can the loss motivate? Or pain? Can the idea that these things we accumulate become witnesses to the breadth and depth and complexity of the story that we collectively live? As I wrestle with the choices to part with the past, I find myself motivated to preserve the objects as artifacts that speak to the story. They allow me to visit the archives and examine the narrative as I now understand it.

View from the ground:

@a_gusseinova captured the quaint seaside of Dover, Kent. @_unplanned admired the sunset from the Manhattan Bridge. @homageproject highlighted Kyoto, Japan’s cyclist-friendly streets. @samkittner shot Baltimore’s busy intersections.

Tag us with the hashtag #citylabontheground so our fellow Claire Tran can shout out your #views on CityLab’s Instagram page or pull them together for the next edition of Navigator.

Have a great weekend!

Tanvi

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