There’s a pine cone sitting on the bookshelf in my living room.
There has been for years.
This is the fourth home I’ve displayed it in, and it’ll be the last.
Why will it be the last?
The pine cone taught me something last week, as I picked it up to dust underneath it, and noticed how it’s become a little bit broken, a little worse for wear.
It occurred to me that the memories I had attached to it, assigned to it, had also become worse for wear.
Where did the pine cone come from?
It was a simple fall day in Meridian, Mississippi. I was walking my dog, enjoying the fresh air and listening to the sound of the breeze through the nearby woods. It reminded me of the ocean sounds where I grew up, in Charleston, South Carolina.
A little pine cone lay in the middle of the sidewalk, and I picked it up. It was perfect. No bent or chipped bits. No weird fuzzy parts or bugs. It was just a perfect, darling little pine cone.
And it made me happy.
Little things like that make me smile, and I wanted to remember that lovely fall day, so I carried the pine cone for the rest of our walk. When I got home, I put it on my shelf. My cute little perfect pine cone, from a perfect autumn afternoon.
But connecting that memory to the object means that as the story of the object changes, the memory can get buried, can shift, or can get lost.
The lesson is that memories can only stay pure when we use our minds, not objects, to hold on to them.
Over the last five years of so I’ve carried that pine cone with me, we’ve moved from Mississippi to California, then to another home in California, and finally to our current home in Maryland.
When I look at it now, I see less of that perfect autumn day, the memory overshadowed by recollections of packing it carefully in paper, moving it, being sad when it got a bit bent, moving it again to another home.
That isn’t what I had intended for that sweet little pine cone when I brought it home with me.
So I choose to remember.
I choose to hold on to the beautiful autumn day. I’ll tuck that memory away in my mind, where it belongs, and release the other memories along with the object itself.
In honor of the memory I’m keeping, I will make another one, in order to let go.
This week, I’m using the pine cone to make a bird feeder with my kids, to hang on a tree near our house. Together, we’ll watch the birds enjoy it, and then let it go back to nature.
Now it’s your turn.
Is there something you’re holding on to that you could let go of by way of making a new memory?
Turning your wedding dress into a christening gown, or having a fun photo shoot in it before donating it?
Could your family make care packages for foster kids with your kids’ stuffed animals and outgrown bedtime stories?
Take 15 minutes today to look over the tchotchkes in your house and see what might not be as strongly attached to its original memory anymore.
Decide on one item to let go of, and begin brainstorming a plan for how to release it (if you feel like it needs more ceremony than just donating or tossing it).