A Dharma Glimpse by Fi Curnow
The other weekend, I got myself some new garden furniture. Well, when I say new, I mean new to me. It was very second hand and cheap off Facebook Marketplace.
Getting it home, though, and setting up the four chairs and one table in my tiny back yard filled me with a sense of joy that seemed ludicrously disproportionate. I was immediately inclined to take myself to task. I appeared to be experiencing a sensation of clinging to my new material possessions. Should I feel guilty that this was making me so very happy? In response I decided to unpick the feeling.
Over the past 35 years since I’ve had my own homes, I’ve rarely had the luxury of being able to buy just what I wanted to furnish those places in anything like a co-ordinated manner. But in a way, this has been a gift. Because much of the furniture that has travelled around with me has its own story. The chairs I bought for next to nothing from a junk shop, stripped them of their white gloss paint and stained them a beautiful shade of deep rich brown. The pans I saved from my late aunt’s flat which reminded me of my childhood. All the bargains I picked up from reject outlets and charity shops because I was fortunate enough to be there at the right time. The mirrors and shelves a former partner enthusiastically dragged out of various skips and brought home (and sometimes I did tell them to take some of their offerings and put them right back in the skips where they’d found them! But that memory in itself stirred a tender feeling of affection and gratitude to an individual who was an important part of my story)
These mismatched things have a history which makes them unique and part of my journey. More than that, though, they represent generosity – that of friends who gifted or passed things on to me, or that of strangers who gave those items to charity shops or put them on Freecycle for me to claim. So when I look around my home at the things that have come to me that way, I remember my gratitude to all those people.
Back to my new garden furniture. After examining my feelings towards some of my other possessions, I recognised that my sudden joy at these new acquisitions was more about what they represented than just ‘having new stuff.’ On warmer days I might sit outside for a while and read comfortably when I got home from work. I would be able to sit out at dusk and watch the pipistrelles flit from the big old trees by the railway line, letting me cherish my connection to nature even in this very crowded built environment. All those extra chairs meant I would be able to invite more than one friend round for a meal at a time.
I know I’m a foolish being and have an attachment to my possessions that I’m not likely to outgrow any time soon. But taking a little time to be curious about my attachments has been an interesting exercise for me in what has been important about my journey to where I am now – and that is gratitude and love.
Namo Amida Bu.