19 for 2019: #6 Hang Decor & Pictures

Giving myself a check on this item, though only by the skin of my teeth. This is also one of a few items on my list that give me pause to reflect on the importance of teamwork and having amazing and supportive people among your closest circles, not to mention, a new perspective on my relationship to stuff.

Anyone who laid witness to the swinging bachelor pad I had in my Santa Barbara years, both of them now that I think about it, and even my tiny little one bedroom apartment I occupied during my graduate school years has witnessed a significant way in which I have expressed my full self–my identity, experiences, beliefs, and values have lived significantly in how I nested into my living spaces. As a teenager who happened to love the majesty and beauty of large felines, my small bedroom was adorned in framed and other portraits of jaguars, leopards, tigers, and lions, and the wall unit that held the stereo and TV that kept me fed with a steady diet of music and MTV was topped with a half dozen or so large plush versions, courtesy of the World Wildlife Fund collection. My transition from childhood to young adult status reflected in the large collection of all kinds of other stuffed animals in one corner, and pages torn from issues of Metal Edge magazine taped to the inside of my armoire–Montley Crue, Poison, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Skid Row, Cinderella–they were all there.

After exiting what was then my longest relationship at about 3 1/2 years, I moved into my very first, all to myself apartment, a darling little studio in one of many large Santa Barbara Victorians that was probably about as big as the living room/kitchen space I am writing from now. And it was all mine. I was working at the local radio station in those days and was pretty well embedded in the local music scene, and it showed in my little apartment–walls almost totally obscured by rock posters, a large industrial set of shelves neatly lined, stacked two deep and two high of CDs. The shift in my evolving taste was clear–I was soaking solidly in the 90s modern rock/alternative scene of GenX–Incubus, Rage Against the Machine, Love and Rockets, Space, Pulp, The Tender Idols, The Urge, London Suede, Man Ray, Shonen Knife, Frenchy, and Critters Buggin, not to mention a whole slew of local SB rock legends.

Then I packed it all up and went travelling for six months–didn’t move into another place of my own for another year. This time, my humble abode, a cozy one bedroom on Santa Barbara’s East side where I’d live for 5 years, was meticulously adorned with my growing connection to the larger, global community around me–flags from all the places I travelled pinned like pillows all over my ceiling, all manner of cultural artifacts acquired from those travels displayed for my enjoyment and conversation starting–
Buddhist, Islamic, and other religious trinkets, communist propaganda, all manner of Asian art, and anything and everything Asian I could get my hands on, especially around my kitchen. Everything underlaid by the funky, quirky, eccentric tastes of a bachelorette–lots of bright, primary colors, which really complemented all the flags, lots of silver, black, and red, colorful light features, and lots of stars, my favorite shape (that may have also been a 90s thing, and I can’t say I ever got over it).

And then I packed it all into my mother’s motor home for a long drive to Monterey for graduate school, where, somehow, it all fit into a much smaller apartment. After graduating from graduate school, I moved in with my first husband, and never really unpacked everything and nested. I was soon off for a year of training in Louisiana, and when I returned, that relationship was at an end, so everything just got packed up again and went into storage for what I had no idea would be nearly a decade. And I can certainly attest that a lot happens in a decade–a lot of growth, change, and development, and for me, this growth occured in the absence of most of my worldly possessions. In that near-decade, I recovered from an emotionally traumatic relationship that included marriage and divorce, was very nearly homeless for a year, save having a bed and some closet/drawer/shelf space in three different homes in two cities, and two of those homes may as well have been in two different cities, the public transportation was bad enough. I downsized to living in a room in a suburban house and started getting my feet under me–two part-time jobs that eventually went one full time, and lots of personal and professional growth and development that led to a tour in the Peace Corps–I went all the way to Central Asia to discover how much I actually hated the life and career I’d been chasing for so long, and to find the light and love of my life, my best friend in everything, and my now husband. When we closed our Peace Corps service, we came to California together, found pretty good jobs, bought a house, and got married. For the first time in a decade, I had a real home of my own and very nearly didn’t quite know what to do with myself–it was a privilege I enjoyed all my young adult life more than most of my peers, thanks to the social safety net that got me to where I am today–relatively free of it, and during that time that many of my peers were establishing themselves into lives of more independent adulting, I was living kind of like an actual college student–shared housing.

One of the first things to do was clear–get that shit out of storage–even if I got a rock bottom rate for the last couple of years, it is a fact that cumulatively I’ve spent far more money storing that stuff than the dollar value of anything in there–I’ve paid abundantly for sentiments and attachments. And if one thing was clear from the start, this cozy little townhouse that my husband and I have purchased came with a garage–a precious commodity in the Bay Area, and since neither of us drives and we don’t have a car, it came with its own storage unit. Not that my goal was to just keep storing a lifetime of stuff–but now I have my own space to unpack it into and I can take my sweet time. The ultimate goal is to have usable space down there and/or have room for a small vehicle, should we decide it to be a worthwhile investment. Unpacking my stored items into our new home, bringing one box after another upstairs to unpack, was like reconnecting with old friends–unique items acquired in my travels, items of my own creation, momentos from my childhood, reveling again in the full volume of my full collection of clothes, jackets, shoes, and other accessories, and other things I’d forgotten about and was joyful to rediscover. I looked forward to organizing, displaying, and enjoying all these talismans of a life pretty well lived so far, and much of the more practical items certainly have come out. The decorative ones, not so much. If you perused my ponderings on why I haven’t cleaned my garage, it’s because I’m stuck in limbo between the practical and the decorative–I’ve officially entered the phase of my life where I spend so much time working to pay for the mortgage for the house I enjoy, I don’t quite get to enjoy it as much as I did when I was a college student who didn’t work much and had a very flexible schedule, spending a lot of time at home studying, because that was the best place for all my accessibility needs.

A traditional Kyrgyz shyrdak, a hand-stitched wool tapestry, 3’ X 5’, hangs, suspended by a half dozen jumbo wooden clothespins. At the center is a bold filigreed design set on a background of similar designs in lighter shades of tan. There is a thin border of alternating light and dark triangles.

I heard some advice, probably a Happiness Hack courtesy of Gretchen Rubin, that if you don’t hang pictures in your new home right away, you’re likely to not do it. Of course, I heard this advice long after we moved into our house, and long after we knew this item kept slipping on the priority list. Determined, I added this to my 19 for 2019, and thanks in large part to the supportive persistence of my unicorn of a husband, and not attributable to my own inertia, two pictures got hung last week to complement the other two that had gone up prior to this endeavor. To our credit, we were pretty quick to hang the shyrdak I bought my last summer in Kyrgyzstan, because it came to the house with us, not out of staorage, and I didn’t want to watch my husband use it as a blanket. Functionally speaking, it’s more of a rug. In my life, it’s a piece of handmade art. One piece that came out of storage that went up with relative speed was an interesting piece, oil on canvas, that I rescued from the dumpster when I was moving out of my little apartment in Monterey. It caught my eye because it’s mostly red and black, and prominently features the Japanese characters for “jinsei,” meaning simply “person” or “human life,” and naturally carries much more complicated, deeper, and diverse meanings depending on the context. It was lightweight, with no frame, and went up easily with Command Strips, indulging my husband’s neuroses around putting holes in the wall.

And there we basically stopped. An art deco Erte in black and silver found for me by my sister in a thrift store for $2.50 stood on the floor against the wall by the downstairs bathroom where I’d like to hang it, and a long, hexagonal mirror loaded with sentimental value, rescued from the dumpster behind my last Santa Barbara apartment by a tragic friend, Willy, who is no longer with us, and painted with decorative red, pink, and white flowers by my sister, who I no longer have a relationship with, stood also against the wall waiting for hanging. The delay in doing so led us to stash them behind the couch for protection until we could do so. Until the day I came home from a bad day at work, having a bit of a meltdown, and had to climb behind the couch at an awkward angle to re-plug my phone’s charging cable and leaned on the mirror in a way that stressed and shattered it into several pieces. My heart broke into as many pieces in that moment and all I could do was sob. That sounds like a separate post. Suffice to say that numerous other items await proper presentation–wayang kulit from Indonesia, paper carvings and lucky embroidery from China, other handmade felt items from Kyrgyzstan to complement the shyrdak, and other curiosities.

Two matching framed pictures, 15” X 23” each, hang side by side. Set in simple medium weight black frames and charged closer to the image by thin borders of deep red and orange mounting board, each apsara, or temple dancer, rubbed in a deep vibrant orange chalk, assumes a semi-reclined posture, one sitting from a cross-legged position and the other in a lively dance, each adorned with tall, conical headdress.

The small victory I’m claiming here is around two Indonesian temple rubbings, gifted to me many years ago by my Indonesian mom and carefully stored for many years pressed between the pages of a sketch book. Encountering these delicate items, something compelled me to prioritize these an item that would go up–perhaps because they represent a bridge between my old life and my new one, a piece of my past that never received a showing, or perhaps that novel feeling of the thrill of shopping in your own garage. I found a local framer who did a beautiful job of giving them a proper presentation, then they came home and leaned up against the wall for a long time, until finally finding their way onto the wall.

There are still many items I’d like to give proper presentation to, so I’ll probably just roll this one over to next year’s list as well. The challenge lies in how I prioritize my time when I actually have the luxury of puttering around my house like I like to. Next post: my adventures in aerial arts.

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