Posted by: Shanna Germain | 09/06/2009

Pg. 158: Pack


The process of putting your life into two small, zippered boxes. And then sitting on them so you can possibly get just a little more of your life into said boxes. And then realizing you’re over the weight limit and having to start over anyway.


Dear Life,

We’ve been here before, you and I. In fact, we’ve danced this dance quite a few times. Fought this fight. Talked this talk and walked this walk.

Life, you can’t have it all. No matter what anyone says (including me). You can’t be a vagabond, flitting from couch to couch and country to country while also keeping everything you’ve ever had. It doesn’t work like that. So choose. Choose wisely. This isn’t like when you move house and you put some of it in storage. The things you leave here are left for good, on to someone else’s life.

So, decide whether to leave behind the wool coat that you bought for four dollars in a thrift shop five years ago on your first trip to Germany. Decide what to do with the new cowboy boots. Choose whether you must have all three books on writing. Decide whether to keep the wedding ring from your grandmother yet again, even though you’ve never worn it. What to do with old journals, letters, post cards, that porcelain baby doll you found on the beach?

Life, you’ve got one more day to choose. Take what you love. Leave the rest.

Far and fast, s.



Things I Came With That Will Be Left Behind

  • My gaming laptop
  • Various books
  • My dislike of haggis

Things I Gained Here That I Will Take With Me

  • The picture from N.
  • Postcards and letters
  • Whisky
  • My fear of ticks
  • A great number of stories, poems, essays and other writings

Things I Gained Here That Will Be Left Behind

  • Lyme’s Disease (fingers crossed and knocked on wood)
  • Coffee Grinder
  • Rain Pants
  • Umbrella from the Moon Museum in Cologne
  • Mountain bike
  • Friends (Sadness!)

Things I Came With That I Will Take With Me

  • Camera
  • Laptop
  • Stainless Steel Coffee Mug
  • Journal




  1. I understand more than you know. I have been told life is made up of the memories you’ve created, not the items you’ve collected in regard to those memories…but that doesn’t make it any easier to do. With my last move I had to fit my entire life into my car. 35 years of memories. Of moving from WA to NY and NY to NJ and NJ to WA, and WA to CA, and CA to AZ and AZ to OR and then back again. I had lugged this stuff with me from state to state since I was 19. Gathering and collecting as I went.

    Now I find myself in a new house, creating new memories with new things. Sometimes I think I still have those things and go to find them and realize they are gone…but it’s okay. …

    You have your writing to revisit those memories. You keep a memoir of your life and this is something you will always have. To find and revisit over and over again. You can go back to Scotland, Germany and where ever you may have journeyed a memory and find it in front of you. Your gift of words will always provide you with that item you think you may have lost, but will always be with you.

    Safe journey my friend.

    • Thanks so very much, Crystal. You’ve had an incredibly difficult year yourself, I’d imagine. I don’t know how you do it and remain so positive and full of life, but I’m so glad you are. Hang in there!

      Best, s.

  2. I love you. You are my hero.

    • Oh my gosh, no. I’m hardly a hero. But if I was, you guys would all be my super suits!!! 🙂

  3. This is so simple, so beautiful. I remember reading a book on antarctic exploration and they had the packing list (10 pounds of lard, 18 pounds of jerky, 1 pair of boots per man, that kind of thing). I got trapped in my tend due to heavy rains, and decided to list everything I had with me for 2 months of backpacking. It dwarfed the Antarctic list, and of course, I never had to eat my boots.

    It’s always possible to get by with less, and you bring all the important stuff with you in memories, philosophies, awakened sensibilities.

    BTW, “saw” you on Matador. So happy to see you there! A fabulous place. Also, why are you not on my blogroll? this is wrong, and must be fixed.

    • 10 pounds of lard. Gah! I have ten pounds of scottish whisky, does that count? 🙂

      And we do bring the important stuff, don’t we? My journal, my photos, my writings… those probably capture my life better than anything.

      I’m on Matador because of your fantastic “Travel, WTF!?” article. Made me laugh so hard! 🙂

  4. know this too…i moved about a bazillion times while i was growing up in 3 different countries…and i always had a hard time to let things go…i love my stuff..but sometimes i wish i could carry the emtions i have conected to material things in my i d be able to get etxra weight and balast be more free and mobile…

    • Yeah, I’ve decided that I need less than I packed. Mainly because I spent the day hauling my bags around. Ugh!!! And emotions weigh a lot though, I think… or at least mine seem to 🙂

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