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2.14.04 Road Ready

It all started when I decided to put a purse away in the hall closet. Changing careers should at least be marked by a change in purses -- from the boxy briefcase-style purse I carried back and forth for years to something more organic, something more right-brained.

With reinvented-self eyes, I saw that the floor of the hall closet was stuffed -- needlessly -- with bags. Tote bags, soft-sided brief cases, purses. When I started pulling them out, they were like clowns jumping out of a circus Volkswagen. The floor of the tiny hall closet was clear for the essentials: 2 tote bags, a purse-tote hybrid, and 2 large purses.

But the hallway was now stacked with, ahem, excess baggage. Each was perfect, chosen for just the right purpose, waiting for a new assignment. They would have to wait in the garage, with the others.

There were more? Oh yes. I had filled a couple of big blue storage bins with old bags ages ago. I felt sure that somehow most of them had migrated up to my hall closet.

But the big blue totes were full. How could that be? I pulled them into the ground floor study and unpacked them. The room was filled with perfect bags, dating back to the mid 70s. Jim, who had been amazed at the pile that came out of the hall closet, was now dumbfounded. He understood excessive collecting of, say, bronze Buddhas or Oaxacan carvings. But, empty bags?

I had to admit, I was a little stunned myself. What he didn't realize was that the back of his closet was also stuffed with bags -- larger, but still perfect, travel bags and suitcases.

What does it all mean? I also have a box of empty picture frames, a cache of unused notebooks, and stacks of blank paper, some of which my grandfather gave me in the 60s. An abundance of... emptiness?

Does it mean I am shallow, an empty shell? Why am I collecting capacity but not using it?

No, it can't be about emptiness. Wallowing in my bag collection at this particular crossroads has to be about abundance and potential.

Buried in J's closet are two bags I bought for our trip to Pakistan. They are soft-sided carry-on bags that can be converted to backpacks. I bought them because -- while I didn't have a clue what Pakistan was going to be like -- I visualized us on a road next to a broken down bus, having to go it on foot. They were part of my survival strategy, my preparing for the unknown. I'd be damned if I would die on the side of a road for want of the perfect bag.

The perfect bag is exactly the right size. If it's too big it gets heavy and you start losing track of the contents. But it has to be big enough for the essentials of the circumstances: commuting to work, foreign city, weekend in St. Louis, going on a movie shoot.

This quest for the perfect bag, I've decided, reflects a spirit of anticipation and preparedness for "the road" and whatever it brings. For weeks before my last day of work I felt like I was getting ready for a long trip. Walking out of work on that last day would be just as full of mysteries as getting on a plane to Asia.

And here I am. My bags are inventoried and organized and stored neatly away. I'm guess I'm ready for anything now.

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