I am a chronic pile-maker. Throughout our house you will find carefully constructed piles of mail and paperwork, piles of children’s art work, piles of children’s homework, piles of books I’ve read and loved, piles of books I’ve read and been indifferent to, and piles of books I haven’t read yet (because I’m not sure if I’ll love or be indifferent to them).
I accumulate stuff like an insatiable vacuum. Papers, books, games, toys all seem to attach themselves to me. And I find places for them. I pick them up at second-hand stores or regular stores, on-line or from friends, but it’s always more, more, more. And I’m beginning to realize that all of this more, more, more actually feeds me less than the pure unadulterated delight of sledding with my children, playing a game of Pinochle with my husband, walking our dog in the snow, or sitting in my rocking chair and staring at the faint glow from our Advent wreath during these weeks before Christmas.
My stuff taunts me. There’s a pile of books in the corner of the bedroom, which I bought at a library sale in Canada this summer. At the time their siren’s call hit me just where I couldn’t resist (I’m weak-willed around books): “Take us home with you. Think about all of the extra room in your car. We’ll make sure you’re never SOL” (Sadly Out of Literature — my 10th grade English teacher’s warning). And now as I look at them across the room they plea, “Just let us stay here a little bit longer. You haven’t wanted to read us yet, but you will, you will. It may be 20 years down the road, but someday you’ll walk into this room and be glad you kept us.”
But not today, books. It’s the season of Advent, a time to prepare for the feast of Christmas in our hearts and homes, and I’m officially declaring my liberation from my stuff. One of the best things about The Amazing Bookstore in the Valley for the bibliophile is the ability to pass on your towering book piles to new homes with impunity — though you should be careful: while Christmas shopping my husband has been known to buy me back a book or two, which I so painstakingly let go of days or weeks or months before. He won’t admit it, but he’s also weak-willed around books. And they know it.
For many Christian traditions, Advent is the time of the prophets. Each day our lectionary contains passages from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Baruch and many others. The prophets call us back to what is really important, our relationship with God and with others. And now my relationships are a little bit cluttered. I need to spend less time managing, shuffling, cleaning and reorganizing my stuff so I can sit in my rocking chair and stare at these Advent candles (and then go to bed without falling over an abandoned pile of books).
• Katy Beedle Rice is the director of religious education at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.