YK’s 365 Release: Day 329

Today I had a laborious time finding something to let go. I have been through every drawer, box, closet, storage shelf, bookshelf in my entire home, several times throughout this project. Even now I have come down to only things I want and this last month will prove perhaps the most challenging, not because I have not learned astronomical lessons of non-attachment, but because I only have the essentials remaining. But then again, nothing is really essential, it is only value I attach to things. Something is wanted only because I want it, it is not wanted in and of itself without my assignment of desire toward it.

So it comes down to, if I’m not using it, why do I need it? If I am truly trying to live in the present, I don’t need something I used to need, nor something I might need. Only what I need at this very moment. And the concept of “need” even, has many variables and is highly subjective.

I remember sitting on our porch in Durham, NC during Hurricane Fran. We were playing Truth or Dare and cards, drinking red wine, smoking cigarettes and watching the storm around us. We sat around our porch table, watching branches fall, the wind was whipping our hair around and we could hear trees cracking in the distance. When we woke up the next morning one of the century old trees had fallen on our neighbor’s house.

The weather went through extremes in Durham. A few years after that hurricane, there was a brutal ice storm that remains one of the worst in the history of North Carolina. The ice itself caused several tiers of damage. Outside of the slick surfaces on the roads and walkways, ice was weighing down the electrical lines and tree branches, making them heavy enough to snap. The entire area lost electricity and people had to find creative ways to survive in brutal arctic darkness without electricity.

This meant we couldn’t use our space heaters, central heating systems were down, we couldn’t charge our phones, turn on the lights, or use our computers to communicate. We were living in darkness by candlelight and wore copious amounts of clothing to stay warm. The houses were built from aging and deteriorating wood so the insides were often colder than the temperature outside (see yesterday’s entry for more on Durham houses). The roads were too dangerous to travel by vehicle so people populated the streets, trudging slowly along. When it became unbearable, we lit our gas stove with matches, and huddled around it. Food was running low in the markets because deliveries could not be driven in. We were going on our second week of no electricity or heat.

Even when I was attending university, I moved off campus as soon as I could because I learned early on how removed and disconnected the university was from the town. Most of my friends were local Durhamites rather than Duke peers, and I spent the majority of my time off-campus in the area that Duke discouraged its students from going on “the other side of the tracks”. I became highly politicized around race and class issues while living in Durham, not directly because of the university where I had attended classes, but because of the radical culture surrounding it in Durham itself. I ended up falling in love with the radicalism and struggle of Durham so much that I stayed another year after graduating.

The ice storm happened in one of the years after I had graduated, when I no longer had regular contact with the campus. I went on campus during the ice storm blackout to relieve my cabin-fever and was blatantly reminded of how sheltered the university was. They had their own generators and besides a few fallen trees, life was as usual on campus. No classes were cancelled, the lights and heat were working as they always had, all of the campus restaurants were open, and I am certain some people were not even aware that there was a state of emergency on the other side of the campus wall. That was one of the last times I set foot on that campus.

I have one last reminder of those cold winters in Durham: a space heater. One that I have kept for the same reason I kept the electric blanket from Day 328, I never wanted to be cold like that again. But I don’t live in Durham anymore, where the houses are not equipped to withstand the winters. New York apartments are often overheated by the radiators and it is more than sufficient to stay warm. So even if I do need a space heater one day, I will not live motivated by “what ifs”, I will live by “what is.”

So on Day 329 of my 365 Release practice for non-attachment, letting go and change I am giving this space heater to a wonderful and radical organization in Durham, NC. One that works with the community of Durham for racial and social justice. May their offices always be as passionately warm as their struggle.


[I created the 365 Release Project to practice non-attachment, letting go and change by giving away 1 thing a day for 1 year. The background, vision and guidelines to the 365 RELEASE project are here. The running list of everything I have released is here.]

One response to “YK’s 365 Release: Day 329”

  1. […] Day 329 (8/2/11): space heater [preparedness] […]

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