If all your stuff was packed away, what would you miss most?

NeedleI have access to 5% or less of my stuff at the moment, because most of it is packed into boxes awaiting our big house move on Tuesday.

Do I miss that other stuff in the 60 boxes? Well, yes and no.

Books aside—because I still love mine (though I’ve given loads away) and I’m a specialist collector—do we need the ornaments, piles of kitchen gadgets, knick knacks, souvenirs, shoes, bags, bathroom paraphernalia, cushions, pictures, 25 wine glasses and 20 towels?

The answer? I think it’s no. We just kind-of acquire this stuff and then become attached to it, because we think it has something to do with identity.

I’m still me without the ceramic cats from Thailand that hang over my bookcase, without the enormous glass fish I bought cheap at auction when a favourite bar closed, without the three wise men statues I bought in Beijing, and without the coloured-light replica of The Space Needle building I bought in Seattle (pictured, above). But actually, I do want these things, because they’re sentimental.

But there are some things I could happily divest myself of.

Ninety percent of my clothes are sealed in a box now, but I don’t care, because I wear only a small proportion of my clothes regularly.

I think about it this way: last year, I went to the US for about four weeks and I took a small bag the size of carry-on luggage (though I always check mine so I don’t have to carry it). That was fine, as long as I remembered to find a washing machine every three days. So, if I can survive for four weeks with this small bag of clothes, why not forever?

The other thing we’ve done is not replenished the food in our fridge or cupboards as we usually do. We’re down to loaves and fishes-type dishes now, if you know what I mean, but they’ve worked out just fine.

We spend a lot of extra money on whims with food, and we end up throwing some of it out. In fact, I’ve read government statistics that say about 40% of the food Australians buy ends up being thrown away because it goes off before people can eat it. You can read more about that here.

And the thing I miss most about not having access to my stuff? My art equipment! I wish I’d put aside my little travelling paint kit to keep me company this week. Oh well, I’ll see it all next week on the other side of the city.

My Winsor & Newton travelling water colour set. Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann

My Winsor & Newton travelling water colour set. Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann

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The Colour of the Mountains

My water colour painting of a scene early in my Rocky Mountaineer train journey from Vancouver to Banff. ©Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

My water colour painting of a scene early along the Rocky Mountaineer train journey from Vancouver to Banff. ©Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

I used to take photos constantly as I travelled. I worked as a travel writer for a big newspaper for most of the first decade of this century, and I was always looking on my travels for a picture that would go with a travel story, that was the right shape for the cover and so on. That habit is hard to break, and sometimes I felt as if the travel was all about getting the shot and not so much about the joy of travel for its own sake.
Before digital cameras took over, my camera gear was heavy to lug round everywhere I went, but worth it to get a good photo. Of course, in those days, I took rolls and rolls of film, and we didn’t know what we had until we arrived home and got it developed.
Today, my old film camera is still sitting at home in its case, though I haven’t used it since 2005. I even did a painting of it, which you can view here.
The only camera I use now is the one on my iPhone. It’s good enough for memories of where I’ve been. The other thing I use it for is to take reference photos for my artwork.
A couple of weeks ago, during my three-week trip to the US and Canada, I travelled on the Rocky Mountaineer train on a magnificent two-day journey from Vancouver to Banff.
I had brought along my Winsor & Newton miniature water colour set:

My Winsor & Newton travelling water colour set. Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann

My Winsor & Newton travelling water colour set. Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

As we travelled along, I completed a small landscape painting of the scenery (you can see the result at the start of this post).
To do this, I took a number of photos with my phone, chose one, then propped it up on the tray table as a reference. As I was painting, we were of course still going past the scenery, which allowed me to really contemplate what I was seeing—the real colours, forms and majesty.
“En plein air” is a term artists use to mean painting a scene outside at its location, rather than working later from photos or sketches. I always admire those artists you see outdoors, easels set up, braving the elements and not too shy to let onlookers pause to watch them work.
While my train trip painting isn’t quite “en plein air”, just being surrounded by the sort of scenery I was painting, being able to see the exact colour of the mountains through the big picture windows of the train,  was a different experience altogether than painting at home at the dining table, perhaps on a dreary winter’s night, from illuminated vacation snaps.
However, that is what I’ll be reduced to now that I’m home. No doubt some of these photos taken on the journey will provide inspiration for a painting or two:

On the Rocky Mountaineer between Vancouver and Kamloops. Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

On the Rocky Mountaineer between Vancouver and Kamloops. Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

 

Picture © Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

This tranquil boat mooring only an hour or so out of Vancouver features a picnic table and chairs.                                       Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

 

©Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

View from the Rocky Mountaineer train on the Kamloops-Banff leg.                                     Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

 

Picture ©Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

On the Rocky Mountaineer train, near the Lake Louise stop just before Banff.                                       Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

 

 

Photo © Caron Eastgate Dann 2013. The Crayon Files

The view from behind our hotel at Banff. Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

 

 

All aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, about to leave Kamloops for Banff. Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann 2013

All aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, about to leave Kamloops for Banff. Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann 2013