Today I happened to notice that I was carrying my usual small reusable shopping bag, and really looked at it for perhaps the first time in ten years. My first thought was, Wow, twenty four years old, and I’m still using this thing. The second thought was, How many shopping bags has it kept me from using, and the answer is perhaps five hundred. What a good investment, a free handout from a seminar weekend I never attended, one of the most green objects I have ever owned. So interesting how my value for this little bag opens into something much greater when I contemplate it, when I actually notice it.
The bag itself carries meaning, in the ineradicable stain patterns on the white canvas. There is a small green grass stain on the bottom, from the time I took it to a concert in Sigmund Stern Grove in San Francisco, to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band 20 years ago with high school friends and my dear first wife. I certainly had a wonderful time that day, or that little detail would never have stuck in my head.
It came to me because my wife worked for the California College of Pediatric Medicine at the time. She and I got married less than five months after this Super Seminar, and we used several bags like this to pack stuff away for the backyard ceremony that filled our home with guests and love. We separated a dozen years ago, and somehow this bag traveled with me. I remember I used it to carry some very immediate and personal items, like my wallet and glasses, cell phone and address book, as I packed and left our home. Perhaps that is why I carry this bag with me most of the time, even though I have a dozen other larger, newer, less graphic cloth shopping bags, still sparkling clean.
Oddly, nothing around this bag’s creation and transmittance to me exists any longer. The marriage that brought the bag to me is long gone, and so is the California College of Pediatric Medicine, which was absorbed by another organization in 2002. I am no longer in touch with most of the people I knew at the time, having moved through divorce, re-marriage, widowhood and new partnership, and moving into new living places five times since the bag came into my awareness. So many changes, yet my relationship with this bag endures and deepens.
The bag itself is sturdy, still as functional as the day it was new. The company that made it, Crestline Company Inc., 22 West 21st Street, New York, is still around. A good example of the nature of phenomena: there is the thing (whatever it is), and our personal world of experience, perception, meaning projected upon it. The thing endures, das ding an sich (thank you, Kant!), while all our projections come and go like ripples on a pond.
I find myself noticing the objects in my life today with fresh perspective and much more respect. My world is drenched in depth and meaning, I need only look with grateful eyes.