The image of discarded furniture and belongings sitting on the side of a trail, wood warping in rain and sun fading fabrics always made me sad. I would picture people moving slowly across the country to Oregon, and becoming too weary under their load of belongings, perhaps due to the death of an ox or a broken axel, and leaving heirlooms behind. Reading about it made me feel a sense of loss, a diminished dream.
Now, each time we drag our luggage down cobblestone streets, we feel the true weight of our belongings. Each item we eliminate is liberation, not resignation. Digging through the bags and finding something we can do without brings a feeling of success I had not anticipated. Even after months of cleansing at home, paring down our lives through endless carloads taken to Goodwill to make leaving possible, I did not expect that sending home a duplicated power cord would make me feel liberated.
We began our journey with excess we knew would be sent home. We planned a French Alps ski adventure as our starting point because of the extra baggage it would involve. As Russell, John’s brother in law, carted away our ski equipment, I thought we were settled on what would continue on with us, with the exception of John’s pared down ski gear. Yet, as Hannah’s friend Britt was headed home, we managed to fill an entire roller suitcase with more stuff that was weighing us down. Even now, there is more that will not continue with us on our journey.
And so, as we move, we leave behind a trail of discarded items. Things that we thought we needed but came to recognize that they are more burden than blessing. It brings my mind back to the lonely furniture described in my school history books decomposing along the Oregon trail. They are no longer a dream that was lost, but rather a weight that was lifted.