Getting Back to Simple

Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Michael Delp muses over the notions of home and possessions only to find that home is not necessarily about what you own:


Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Michael Delp muses over the notions of home and possessions only to find that home is not necessarily about what you own.

For years I’ve lingered around home most of the time. Given the choice to go to Paris or South America, I’d opt to stay home. In fact, at 52, my notions of home seem to go much farther than the actual structure, wandering into the considerations of rooms, smells and the plethora of information which signals I am in friendly territory. Over the years, I have sometimes confused a sense of home with the accumulation of possessions. I have accrued massive collections of objects and artifacts, which fill my home and storage shed.

Lately though, I seem to be heading for a definition of home which is marked by the ideas of simplicity and forgiveness. Home for me now is a refuge from the noise of this culture disintegrating around me. Sadly, confusingly, I carry the psychic shrapnel of living in an acquisitive age. My home is a temple to the power of credit.

However, there is hope. Almost every six months I grow tired of all my things. I imagine myself dancing out of my life, giving all my worldly belongings gladly into the arms of my friends, stepping out the door one last time, naked.

When I really drift down inside my darker self and think about home, I think of my friends Nancy and Dave Lemmen who literally lost everything they owned in a forest fire eight years ago in Grayling, Michigan.

I was there the day after and stood with them in the smoke and chaos of what was once their home. In the darkest reaches of my heart I see us sifting through the layers of debris in the garage finding the charred bodies of their three dogs. I knew their grief and seem to carry it now in my bone marrow. And I use this grief, this charred knowledge to help me jettison the “stuff” of my life, to help me re-define my own life in terms of home.

Now, a powerful organizing force in my life is that I know what it’s like to sift through the ashes of home, bring the smell of memory up out of the blackened ground. And I know everyday what it means to run my hands through my wife’s hair, my daughter’s braids, then down over the soft fur over a dog’s ears.

For what it’s worth, I haven’t given enough away lately and I’m reminded daily that Dave Lemmen once told me before he died of cancer how happy he was thinking of the things from his life he gave away before the fire.

Now in my imagination it seems I am always tending a fire. I still have fits of simplicity, I call them, probably some dire chemical reaction to owning too much stuff: mostly fly rods and high-tech jackets, and enough fishing gear for a theme park. So I stroke a fantasy fire. I imagine going down to the beach some black night carrying everything I own. I know I should give it all away, but in the fantasy I need the purge. I’ll douse the pile with gas, touch it off, wander back upstairs, then gather my wife, my daughter and the dog at the window. I’ll sift my hands through their hair and then settle back to watch my life burn down to simple again.

Michael Delp is an author and poet who teaches creative writing at Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan.