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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Ammi Midstokke: Lightening your load, backpacking advice for life

By Ammi Midstokke Correspondent

I do not, under almost any circumstances, recommend that you move. Or that you replace your usual outdoor activities with the labor of packing and schlepping boxes of personal items to and fro until your propensity to be a hoarder becomes blatantly obvious.

The amount of work involved in moving makes me think that nomadic societies are onto something with their light loads. No more than a camel or donkey can carry is probably just the right amount.

Unless of course you are like my person, who strategically/accidentally broke his leg skiing on the way to pick up a moving trailer. True story. Now he gets to ride the camel while I load the trailer with boxes.

This packing of miscellany has me wondering what our obsession with things really is and how the things obtain value. My inability to part with some of the most trivial nonsense (my Bruce Springsteen CDs, even though I don’t have a CD player) is testament to inexplicable emotional attachment to stuff.

Pardon my momentary escape to Buddhism, but the stuff we are often attached to is the stuff of our lives that lacks meaning but brings burden. Financial burden, space burden, upkeep burden. Really, how many coffee cups does one need? I can only drink one cup at a time.

This phenomenon is no better illustrated than when we take a long hiking trip and pack our entire means of sustenance into thirty pounds – something I am convinced we should all do if only for the experience of lightening our load.

While shuffling piles of things from one place to another, I thought about those things that have the most value to me. What things would I never want to give up?

It was not my collection of designer shoes (an odd thing for a mountain biker/climber/runner mom to even own), my ever-growing stash of yarn, or even photo albums.

It was my history. And while some of those things symbolize my history, most of it is stored in the library of memories and character-shaping experiences that I’ve had along the way.

This was the way of the nomad: to share the stories of their histories and that which had most value to them. They pulled them out around the fire, as entertainment along their journeys, and as wise lessons to their children. These were their gifts. Not iPhones and more Easter chocolate than can be safely consumed.

Thus, while loading my stuff into boxes, I asked myself a profound question: Is the stuff I am packing going to facilitate the making of more memories or is it a relic of my past?

Those things with the most significance were the ones that actually had memories and had the potential to make more memories. Things like my camp cookware, my knife, books that I read more than once, and a few small things I might pass on through generations. Quilts, my grandmother’s wedding ring.

The exercise also made me acutely aware of the reality that richness of life is not the same as wealth of possession. Our task is not to accumulate more things (trust me, it sucks on packing day), but to accumulate more incredible stories and memories.

They are much lighter and better shared around the campfire with those we love.

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